- Bryson DeChambeau wins the Arnold Palmer Invitational 2021 by one stroke over Lee Westwood at Bay Hill Club and Lodge
- US Open champion claims eighth PGA Tour title and second in eight months
- Runner-up Westwood will look to carry form into Players Championship at Sawgrass this weekend
BAY HILL, FLORIDA – As Bryson DeChambeau holds his nerve to win at Bay Hill this past weekend, what did we learn from the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational?
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DeChambeau holds nerve to claim Arnold Palmer win
As the PGA Tour began its Florida swing ahead of the Masters this past weekend, Bay Hill Club and Lodge once again delivered a tournament fitting of the Great man’s name, as Bryson DeChambeau claimed victory in the 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Overhauling the leader into Sunday’s final round Lee Westwood, the 27-year-old American steeled himself to sink a seven-footer on the final green to become the fifth owner of the red cardigan, since the passing of The King, Arnold Palmer, in 2016.
After a dramatic final day in the shadow of Orlando, DeChambeau was one of only three players to hit a sub-par round over the final day’s play, and despite Corey Connors‘ late surge in the final holes, the Canadian faded as DeChambeau sealed victory on 18, edging out Westwood.
As an-again emotional DeChambeau warmly received Arnold Palmer‘s famous old jersey, and with the Players Championship at Sawgrass just days away and the 2021 Masters now a mere month off, this was another example of the growing reputation of the Californian, in which the next 12 months could see him reap rich rewards.
‘The Scientist’ no flash in pan
The Covid-19 pandemic for many, forced us to re-examine almost every facet of our lives, and the same is no different for DeChambeau, whose renaissance continues unabated in 2021.
After claiming his eighth PGA Tour event title, he adds the Arnold Palmer Invitational to his Rocket Mortgage Classic he won last July in Michigan, which during a 12-month period for DeChambeau, has seen a more slim-lined, science-driven, student of the game appear.
Having shed the pounds during lockdown, DeChambeau has turned back to his power game also, which, for as many critics his approach has brought in bludgeoning his way to winning more consistently, is without question, working.
Underpinned by his six-stroke US Open victory at Winged Foot, his performance in New York saw him the only player to finish 72 holes under par, taking his first major crown.
Moreover, by winning the opening Tour event of March – in the lead-up to the Masters no less – is further evidence that DeChambeau is not going anywhere, and will surely be a regular fixture in the winners circle not only this year, but during many after also.
Westwood stakes Ryder Cup claim
Having led the field into the Sunday’s final round at Bay Hill, one could forgive Westwood for his disappointment at falling short again at the final hurdle, but his performance across the weekend showed the veteran from Worksop is far from done in the game of golf.
Now 47, the Englishman – still yet to claim a major – came within sight of winning his first PGA title since 2010 at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, but was again foiled by the sheer bullishness of his American rival.
That of course, and his fair share of misfortune on the back nine Sunday, underlined by managing to find a divot to rest after his perfect tee shot at 18, when Westwood realistically needed a three to force DeChambeau into a play-off.
Had Westwood managed to claim the Arnold Palmer trophy, it would have been a major feat for British golf in seeing the torch handed over from compatriot and defending champion Tyrrell Hatton, but nevertheless, Westwood will surely be buoyed by his showing in Florida.
Not least for the the next leg of the Sunshine State swing and the upcoming major season, but also for September’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
With European captain Padraig Harrington spoilt for choice with picks, Westwood, who missed out at Le Golf National in 2018, will have impressed his skipper and showed there is life in the old dog yet, not least, on US soil.
Lessons learnt for Hatton…
Hatton meanwhile is left with important lessons learnt after defending a Tour title for the first time, and though finishing a creditable T21 on -1, was a full ten shots off DeChambeau, after carding five-over on Sunday.
The past 12 months will have been met with frustration for the Englishman, but despite the biggest overhaul golf has seen since World War II, Hatton managed to book-end the halt and resumption of competition with his win here last year, and at Wentworth last Autumn.
Though some way off the pace, the past four days at Bay Hill will serve Hatton well, and as he becomes almost a household name in not only European but US golfing circles, his handing over of the trophy on Sunday night, feels like the next step on his sporting journey.
Sawgrass next up will present similar challenges as posed this past weekend, and as a player who is fast adapting to his new tag as a top-10 player in the game, the month leading up to Augusta will surely be a fascinating learning curve.
…as McIlroy again flounders
For Rory McIlroy, his latest Tour failure, be it PGA or European, means it’s now November 2019 since his last event win, when the Northern Irishman won the WCG Championship in Shanghai.
Notwithstanding the pandemic, the 16 months between then and now have seen the four-time major winner flounder, as his now seven-year wait for one of the big four goes on.
With just the Green Jacket absent from his collection in search of the Grand Slam, McIlroy gets his latest chance to enter the Butler Cabin next month, but his final day form at Bay Hill will not have raised optimism.
Though the 31-year-old former number one went into the weekend firmly in the picture, his final day push failed to materialise once more, and which further desperation, ultimately undid the Briton.
Four shots off the pace – a similar deficit from other recent majors – McIlroy threw down a double bogey at 6, finding the drink twice in falling short of the green.
McIlroy came home T10, dropping five shots during his final round, further highlighting his on-going battles with his ever-present demons.
It was another all-too familiar tale of woe for McIlroy, and set to defend the Players Championship at Sawgrass this coming weekend, Bay Hill was far from the ideal preparation.
If McIlroy has designs on ending his Tour and indeed major drought, he has much to address in his game still.
The 2021 Players Championship begins this weekend at TPC Sawgrass, Jacksonville, Florida.
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