ORLANDO – Bryson DeChambeau was the star of his own blockbuster all week on the par-5 6th at Bay Hill in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
He wasn’t a bit player on the other 17 holes, either.
Inspired by the tournament’s namesake and moved by a Sunday morning text exchange with Tiger Woods, the bulked-up basher relied on more than his brute strength to hold off a strong cast of challengers to win by one over Lee Westwood.
On a windy day when only three of the 72 players broke par and the field averaged 75.5 – the highest final-round scoring average since 1980 – DeChambeau held his nerve, holed a 38-footer for birdie on the fourth, a 50-footer for par on the 11 and a gut-check 6-footer for par on the 18th in winning his eighth PGA Tour title.
DeChambeau, the reigning U.S. Open champion, was one of the three to break par with his 1-under-par 71 and finished at 11 under to become the first multiple winner of the season.
“It’s amazing to win Mr. Palmer’s tournament – it’s going to make me cry,” DeChambeau said. “He’s had an influence on me for the longest time and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.”
DeChambeau slipped on the XL red cardigan the winner receives – “It barely fits,” he said – and referenced Palmer and Woods and how proud he was to wear it.
“When I got that text, I’m like, wow, that’s pretty amazing that he is thinking of me when he’s in his tough times that he’s going through right now,” DeChambeau said of Woods, who is recovering in a Los Angeles hospital following a horrific single-vehicle rollover crash that left him with serious, multiple injuries in his right leg, ankle and foot.
“So I just texted him, I said, ‘Keep moving forward, keep going forward. You’re going to get through it. You’re the hardest working person I’ve ever met and you’ll persevere through this pretty much.’ One of the things that we talked about was, it’s not about how many times you get kicked to the curb or knocked down. It’s about how many times you can get back up and keep moving forward.
“And I think this red cardigan is not only for Mr. Palmer, but I would say it’s a little bit for Tiger as well, knowing hat place he’s in right now.”
DeChambeau had become the tournament’s biggest attraction earlier in the week as he said he’d try to drive the par-5, 550-yard sixth if conditions were optimum; it would require a blast of 340 to 350 yards across the lake guarding the hole.
He didn’t give it a go in the first two rounds but huffed and puffed and unleashed in the third round and whacked a drive of 370 yards. While he wasn’t going for the green, his line remained very aggressive and his bomb ended up 70 yards short of the putting surface. The fans lined up behind the tee went bonkers as the Incredible Bulk thrust his arms to the sky in celebration.
He repeated the scene on Sunday and uncorked a drive of 377 yards that wound up 88 yards short of the green. He made three birdies and a par on the hole.
DeChambeau grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie on the fourth and never fell out of the top spot.
“One of the things that stuck in my mind was Tiger and how he kept fighting. A lot of the conditions were similar to the U.S. Open and that helped me,” DeChambeau said. “Even when I don’t have all the things I need to feel comfortable with my golf swing and with equipment, I was still able to perform and execute when the time came. And that was pretty exciting.
“I’ll remember persevering through a very difficult day where I didn’t have my best golf swing out there. You can’t just hit it far out here on the PGA Tour. You have to be able to control your golf ball, flight the ball, hit it high when you need to, and control your shots out of the rough. Today’s a perfect example of you’re not going to hit every fairway, which is nearly impossible. And learning how to play it out of the rough, learning how to control your golf ball and get it to run up next to holes is a very important part of the game.”
Westwood, 47, who has won European Tour titles in four different decades and has 25 in all, was trying to become the first player in PGA Tour history to go 10 years or more between victories two different times.
But Westwood, who became the only player to hold the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s, couldn’t run down DeChambeau.
“We had a really good battle,” Westwood said. “There were tough conditions out there and it was a day for playing sensible and hanging on and grinding out the pars. (DeChambeau), you can see the shape of him, he’s worked hard in the gym and he’s worked on his technique to hit it a long way and it’s not easy to hit it that straight as he hits it as far as he hits it.
“So people are going to have advantages and his is obviously length. He can overpower a golf course. So it’s fun to watch, I think.”
Corey Conners (74) finished in third at 8 under. At 6 under in fourth were Andrew Putnam (71), Richie Werenski (73) and Jordan Spieth (75), who made his tournament debut.
Spieth, trying to win for the first time since the 2017 Open Championship, was doing Jordan Spieth things again, including making bombs on the greens and making an ace in the third round.
But his magic wand was ice cold in the final round as he didn’t make a putt longer than 10 feet and made bogeys on three of his final four holes. But he’s finished in ties for third, fourth twice and 15th in his last four starts.
“I mean, finishing 5, 5, 4, 5, I kind of want to go break something, but I’ll look back very positively at the way that my attitude was today, the way I was walking, the confidence that I took into every single shot,” Spieth said. “That’s going to serve me well going forward.
“I made a step in the right direction today, regardless of the result.”