De Chambeau- photo Getty Images Sam Greenwood
To a large extent, the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Club in Orlando developed into a classic battle between the old and the new.
27-year-old, Bryson DeChambeau, would eventually defeat a man twenty years his senior (Lee Westwood) by one shot is an intriguing shootout over the closing stages of the event inspired and perhaps still looked over by arguably the games greatest ambassador, Arnold Palmer.
It was, though, a result that was in doubt until the very last putt, DeChambeau holing from six feet for par at the 72nd hole after Westwood had survived an encounter with a divot at the last before holing an eight-foot put of his own for par to force DeChambeau to hole his.
For DeChambeau it was his 8th PGA Tour title since joining the PGA Tour in late 2016 for the 2016/2017 season, one of those his victory at the 2020 US Open and the former US Amateur Champion appears to have the golfing world at his feet.
He moves back inside the top ten in the world to # 6 from his current 11th place in the standings and with PGA Tour earnings already of nearly US$23 million it has been a meteoric rise.
DeChambeau polarises some because of the vast distances he hits the ball and the almost forensic approach to the game but to many he is an example of the benefit of hard work and taking full advantage of the modernisation of equipment, allowing his massive body to have him as perhaps the most powerful hitter in the game.
His dedication to improvement both physically and mentally can only be admired and while the current controversy around equipment in the game continues, DeChambeau can only be respected for working within the confines of legalities and yet still stand out in terms of his uniqueness.
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams for Mr. Palmer ‘s event,” said the winner. “Came here as an amateur, he gave me an invitation and I loved this golf course the minute I arrived and I love the atmosphere and I love the fans, I loved what Mr. Palmer did with this place and what he’s done and his legacy he’s left here. It’s quite amazing.
“I’m glad I made that last putt. I did not want to go into a playoff. I took a little extra time on that because I knew that ball was aimed a little too far right and sure enough it was. I took a deep breath was able to execute and knock it in.
“But first and foremost I got to thank personally Chris Como (coach), Tiger Woods even, he helped me out quite a bit today this morning, talking to him from texts, but also Chris Como, we have been talking even before the round, 10 minutes before the round I called him and was talking about my golf swing.
“So there’s numerous people that have helped me get this victory. My caddie worked really hard, Tim Tucker, Brett, obviously my agent, manager, Connor, we all work hard every day. We were out here super late last night, just like I was at the U.S. Open working hard to figure out my golf swing, albeit I didn’t figure it out all the way I was able to come through clutch in the end and execute the shots when I needed to and win this golf tournament.”
Lee Westwood – photo Getty Images Sam Greenwood
Westwood, too, is one for admiration. One of the game’s better players over the past 25 years but still without a major to his name, Westwood’s career is resurgent and although his last and only win on the PGA Tour came in 2010, he has continued to be a dominant force in Europe, winning the Abu Dhabi tournament in 2020 en-route to another Race to Dubai title.
Westwood began today’s final round in the lead but on a day where windy firm conditions resulted in only two players breaking par on the par 72 layout, he was round in 73 to finish just one behind the winner.
Westwood missed a golden opportunity to close the gap at the par 5 16th but from just 156 years he took four to get down and then, at the last, when needing a birdie to force a possible playoff he found a divot in the middle of the fairway and was unable to attack the dangerous flag position.
Both players would par the hole and DeChambeau ran out the winner by one.
“I thought we had a really good battle,” said Westwood. “There was never really more than one in it all day and there were tough conditions out there and it wasn’t going to be a day where — I don’t think anybody was going to shoot 68 or 67 — it was a day for playing sensible and hanging on and grinding out the pars.”
Canada’s Corey Conners finished third after getting within one shot when he eagled the 16th from 12 feet. He would though bogey his final two holes but it was one of his best finishes on the PGA Tour after his win in Texas in 2019.
Jason Day finished as the leading Australian but after working himself into contention on Saturday his final round of 79 saw the former winner of the event finish 31st.
New Zealand’s Danny Lee was 49th.
The PGA Tour now moves a little further north to Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville for this week’s Players Championship.