ORLANDO, Fla. — After sinking a testing five-foot par putt on the 18th hole to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational here on Sunday evening, Bryson DeChambeau said he had received a text message from Tiger Woods that morning.
“We just talked about keep fighting no matter what,” DeChambeau said, “and play boldly like Mr. Palmer said. My heart has been heavy with Tiger and what’s going on with him. And I kept telling myself it’s not how many times you get kicked down but how many times you get back up and keep going.”
Wearing a red cardigan, a signature Palmer garment that is presented to the tournament champion, DeChambeau said the sweater was a tribute to Palmer, who died in 2016, and to Woods, who has won the Palmer Invitational eight times. Woods is recuperating in California from leg injuries sustained in a serious car crash on Feb. 23.
“Just knowing what place he’s in right now,” DeChambeau said of Woods, adding that he told him, “You’re going to get through this.”
The final round Sunday featured a duel between DeChambeau and Lee Westwood, who must have been feeling a displaced sense of déjà vu.
Westwood, 47, was once the young, barrel-chested strongman whose forearms propelled soaring iron shots into the sky. Westwood’s power game turned heads, and led to scores of tournament victories, a world No. 1 ranking and 10 Ryder Cup appearances.
But on Sunday, Westwood played the role of the aging challenger to a beefed-up modern version of his former self in DeChambeau, 27. They had a stirring clash until the final hole, but ultimately, Westwood did not turn back the clock as DeChambeau, whose consistency is underrated, steadily held off Westwood for a one-stroke victory.
Westwood has admired DeChambeau’s prodigious length off the tee, which became a sensational story line of the 2020 golf season. “It’s great to watch,” he said. “I like it. He can overpower a golf course.”
DeChambeau trailed Westwood by one stroke entering the final round, and promptly fell back another stroke with a bogey on the first hole. But three holes later he had tied Westwood, and by the pivotal, par-5 sixth hole, which has been a stage for DeChambeau to showcase his unmatched power throughout the weekend, he seemed to seize the momentum with a memorable birdie in what had become a two-man competition for the tournament title.
As he had done in Saturday’s third round, DeChambeau took a radically aggressive line off the sixth tee by taking the most direct approach over a lake that required a 340-yard carry to keep the ball dry. DeChambeau’s tee shot sailed a little right but it still cleared the water and, with help from the wind, traveled 377 yards that left him just 88 yards away from the pin. The next closest tee shot to the green on the sixth hole on Sunday was more than 200 yards away.
After his misstep on the first hole, DeChambeau made 15 pars and two birdies for a round of one-under-par 71, putting together an impressive exhibition of concentration and good course management on a day when the wind was gusting up to 25 miles an hour and vexing most of the field.
DeChambeau also made critical, reasonably long par-saving putts on the second, third and 11th holes. On the fourth hole, he sank a 37-foot birdie putt. Afterward, DeChambeau said he does not believe he gets enough credit for his putting ability because his booming drives overshadow it.
“It’s a very underrated aspect of my game,” DeChambeau said.
Corey Conners, who began the day tied with DeChambeau, finished third. Jordan Spieth had another strong tournament, one of a series of improved performances for him this year, but finished Sunday’s round with a 75 to fall into a tie for fourth place.
The victory was DeChambeau’s eighth on the PGA Tour and the first for him this year, which will signal to the rest of his rivals that his breakthrough season of a year ago was far from a fluke. DeChambeau had 10 finishes in the top 10 at tournaments last year, including a victory at the United States Open, his first major championship.
But he said the victory at the Palmer Invitational was particularly emotional for him because Palmer had mailed him a congratulatory letter one week before he died. DeChambeau has framed the letter and hung it on a wall in his home office.
“I don’t even want to say what winning at Mr. Palmer’s event is going to mean to me,” DeChambeau said Sunday evening. “It’s going to make me cry.”