On a difficult Sunday at Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Bryson DeChambeau made just one bogey to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one stroke over Lee Westwood. It was the eighth PGA Tour victory for DeChambeau, the third-most of any player over the last five seasons (Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson have twelve apiece in that span). Bryson was the only player in the field to make one or fewer bogeys in the final round.
DeChambeau has now won when trailing entering the final round five times on the PGA Tour, tied for the most of any player since the beginning of the 2016-17 season (Thomas also has five such wins). His win snaps a streak of five straight winners at Bay Hill from outside the United States – the last time a PGA Tour event was won six straight times by international players was a run of nine in a row at the Sentry Tournament of Champions from 2002-2010. DeChambeau is the first multiple winner of the 2020-2021 PGA Tour season.
Twelve months after Bay Hill presented its toughest final round test in forty years, it outdid itself on Sunday. The field averaged a score of 75.5 in the final round – four-tenths of a stroke tougher than last year – and the highest final round scoring average at the event since 1980 (79.1). No player recorded a round in the 60s in the final round Sunday, also the first time that’s happened on a Sunday at Bay Hill since 1980.
No course on the PGA Tour yields more approach shots from outside of 200 yards than Bay Hill. DeChambeauexceled on those approaches, playing the 20 holes where those shots presented themselves in seven-under-par. DeChambeau had an average proximity to the hole of 45 feet, 2 inches for the week from that range – more than eight feet better than the field average for the week.
Lee Westwood took a one-stroke lead into the final round, but ultimately finished one behind Bryson. Westwood is the first player to hold a 54-hole lead or co-lead on the PGA Tour in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s, but has not converted one of them on the PGA Tour since 1998 in New Orleans. He is now 11-for-23 worldwide the last 15 years when entering the final round of an event with the lead or co-lead.
At 47 years old, Westwood was trying to become the oldest European PGA Tour winner in the modern era (since World War II). Westwood also would have been the first European player to have victories 22 or more years apart (1998 in Louisiana – 2021 at Bay Hill) since Jim Barnes won the 1937 Long Island Open a full 23 years after his first credited PGA Tour title, the 1914 Western Open.
Jordan Spieth had another strong week, finishing tied for fourth. It was the third top-five finish for Spieth in his last four PGA Tour starts – the same number of top-fives he had in his previous 70 tournaments around the world. The last nine times Spieth has entered the final round of a PGA Tour event within four shots of the lead, he has failed to break 70 in the final round.
Austin Ernst won the LPGA Drive On Championship by five strokes, her third career victory on the circuit. American players have now won each of the first three events on the 2021 schedule, the first time that has happened on the LPGA Tour since 2007, and just the third time since 1990 (also happened in 1991).
Ernst, the 2011 NCAA Division I individual champion, finished five in front of runner-up Jennifer Kupcho, the 2018 NCAA champion. It’s the second time since last summer that the top-two finishers in an LPGA event finished first and second: at last August’s Ladies Scottish Open, Stacy Lewis (2007 champion) won while Azahara Munoz (2008 champion) finished tied for second.
The PGA Tour remains in Florida next for The Players Championship, which was canceled after the opening round due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rory McIlroy was the last man to win the event – he will try to become the only player in the tournament’s history to win consecutively. McIlroy shot a closing 76 at Bay Hill to finish tied for tenth.