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Bryson DeChambeau authors Arnie-like victory at Bay Hill

Bryson DeChambeau celebrates winning putt at 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational
Bryson DeChambeau celebrates upon sinking the clinching par putt on the 18th hole Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla.

American grinds out a 1-under final round on a day with only 3 subpar scores, winning PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational

Like just about everybody whom Arnold Palmer met in his 87 years, Bryson DeChambeau came away with a lasting impression of the man and his message.

Among those lessons: legible handwriting.

“When I came here first as an amateur [in 2016],” DeChambeau said late Sunday after winning the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at the late Palmer’s Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla., “I walked up into his office, and he was there and we had a picture together. I was certainly excited to meet him for the first time, not knowing he would leave a lasting impression on me. When he signed the book, he said make it legible, and when he said that, that stuck to me, and I've done it ever since.”

That can’t be easy, with a name as long as DeChambeau’s.

DeChambeau delivered an on-course performance worthy of Palmer, who died in 2016 after winning 62 times on the PGA Tour while reinforcing the merits of penmanship for succeeding generations. After a bogey on the first hole to fall two strokes behind 54-hole leader Lee Westwood, DeChambeau churned out a 1-under 71. He matched the day’s low round with one of only three subpar scores on a chilly, windy day in central Florida for an 11-under 277 total and one-stroke victory. DeChambeau was the only player to break par each day (scores).

With his eighth PGA Tour victory, DeChambeau became the first two-time winner of the 2020-21 season.

“I don’t even know what to say, to win at Mr. Palmer’s event,” he said after holing a clinching 3-foot par putt on the 18th hole. “It’s going to make me cry. It means the world to me.”

DeChambeau said that he got a text message early Sunday “out of the blue” from Tiger Woods, an eight-time Bay Hill champion who is recuperating from surgery after a rollover incident on a California roadway two weeks ago.

“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,” said DeChambeau, wearing the red cardigan sweater that goes to the Bay Hill champion. “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 what place he's in right now.”

DeChambeau, who entered the week at No. 6 in the world ranking, led the Bay Hill field in driving distance (321.3 yards) and strokes gained off the tee (plus-1.761). However, his line off the dogleg-left par-5 sixth hole left mouths agape. With a right-to-left wind that was slightly aiding the players, DeChambeau pounded a 377-yard drive over the lake and into a fairway bunker, leaving only 88 yards to the flag. Though he missed the green with his second shot, he still made birdie.

DeChambeau said his driving distance – he leads the PGA Tour with a 323.5 average – proved helpful, especially during a final round that the 2020 U.S. Open winner said was “kind of like the U.S. Open.”

“I was able to get a wedge out of the rough, whereas some people were hitting 7-irons or 6-irons back in the rough,” he said. “And it's kind of like the U.S. Open [at Winged Foot]. I was able to dominate it a little bit, the driving off the tee.”

Lee Westwood runner-up at 2021 Arnold Palmer Invitational
Lee Westwood expresses relief upon making par at the 18th hole, applying momentary pressure to eventual winner Bryson DeChambeau.

Westwood, the 47-year-old Englishman who has won 25 times on the European Tour, was seeking to win only his third title on the PGA Tour, and his first since 2010. He made three bogeys against two birdies in a 1-over 73 to finish solo second at 10-under 278.

“I thought we had a really good battle,” said Westwood, who was paired with DeChambeau for the final round. “It was a day for playing sensible and hanging on and grinding out the pars.”

Canadian Corey Conners shot 74 to finish third at 8-under 280.

American Jordan Spieth, who started the day two strokes off the lead and in search of his first victory in nearly four years, shot 75 to share fourth place with countrymen Andrew Putnam (71) and Richy Werenski (73) at 6-under 282. Though he posted his fourth consecutive top-15 finish, Spieth has gone 80 starts without a victory, dating to the 2017 British Open.

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