The crowd loved it as Bryson DeChambeau ascended to pole position in the FedExCup with his eighth PGA TOUR victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
DeChambeau’s soaring drives at the sixth hole maxed out at 377 yards Sunday and brought howls of delight as he turned the par 5 into a par 4 at most. And after he’d made a testy five-footer to secure a final-round 71, edging Lee Westwood (73) by one, he flexed and screamed.
Not lost amid all the fireworks, though, was that DeChambeau also won in large part due to his work on the greens, namely by making his two longest putts of the week. First came his birdie from just over 37 feet at the fourth hole, which seemed tame by comparison to the nearly 50-foot bomb he would make to save par at the 11th hole. He joins just four other players to make multiple putts from over 35 feet in the final round en route to victory in the ShotLink era:
• Vijay Singh (three such putts), 2008 Dell Technologies Championship
• Ben Crane (two), 2010 Farmers Insurance Open
• Tiger Woods (two), 2008 Farmers Insurance Open
• Craig Stadler (two), 2003 B.C. Open
After his U.S. Open victory last fall, DeChambeau – the first American winner at Bay Hill since Matt Every in 2015 – becomes the first multiple winner of the 2020-21 TOUR season.
Here are five other stories you may have missed:
1. DeChambeau remembers those who paved the way.
The champion had some legends in his corner on Sunday.
For one, he always has revered the tournament’s namesake, who was kind enough to extend an invitation to DeChambeau to compete at Bay Hill when DeChambeau was still an amateur. As the 2015 U.S. Amateur champion (Palmer was a U.S. Amateur champion 61 years earlier), DeChambeau played the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tied for 27th, his week highlighted by a closing 66. For a young kid dreaming of one day playing the TOUR, it was a significant week.
If the first player who comes to mind at Bay Hill is Palmer, then the second would be Tiger Woods, an eight-time winner there. Sunday before his round, DeChambeau received a text from Woods, who was injured in a single-car accident in Los Angeles on Feb. 23.
“Well, it was obviously personal, I would say, for the most part, but pretty much to sum it up … he texted me this morning out of the blue and I wasn’t expecting anything,” DeChambeau said. “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.’ 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 (champion’s) 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.”
2. Westwood hangs tough.
Although he didn’t win, ultimately collecting his seventh runner-up finish on TOUR, Lee Westwood made hard-working pars on 17 and 18 to at least make DeChambeau earn it. That included Westwood’s gritty 4 from a divot in the middle of the fairway at the last.
The only hiccup: His failure to birdie the short, par-5 16th hole after splitting the fairway.
“Yeah, I mean I’m not short myself,” Westwood said. “I think I hit it about 350 yards down 16. I only went in with wedge into that par-5.” Yet with DeChambeau up against the lip of a fairway bunker, Westwood missed the green and couldn’t get up and down, walking off with a par.
Still, the veteran from England wasn’t hanging his head at the end of a very, very hard day.
“You can’t want for more than that,” he said. “I thought we had a really good battle, we were never, it 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.”
3. Spieth pleased with T4 finish.
Although he didn’t make anything on the greens Sunday, Jordan Spieth (75, T4, five back) had a great first start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. It started with a tour of Palmer’s office and ended with his third top-five finish in his last four starts. This one, Spieth said, was his best effort yet in his comeback (T3/AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am; T4/Waste Management Phoenix Open).
“I thought I played better today than I did any of those Sundays,” said Spieth, whose streak of 389 holes without a double bogey or worse marks his longest on TOUR. “At the beginning of the day if you told me I was going to be even through 10 and be in – hit driver in the middle of the fairway on 11 and on 12 – I would have thought I was going to win the golf tournament.”
Spieth has climbed from 92nd to 52nd in the world this year, and his finish at Bay Hill pushed him up to 43rd (from 59th) in the FedExCup standings. The 2015 FedExCup champion continues to inch ever closer to the form that saw him reach No. 1 in the world.
“Again, I put the ball exactly where I wanted to on just about every single shot and putt,” he said, “and it came out to 75 somehow. But that’s not going to happen every time; if I do, if I play the way I did today. It’s going to be really good going forward.”
4. McIlroy buoyed by fans’ return.
Rory McIlroy, who will be defending his 2019 title at THE PLAYERS Championship this week, went into the final round just four back but struggled with a 4-over 76 (T10). Although he was one of many who struggled, he had trouble accepting the lackluster final result.
“I don’t know,” McIlroy said. “I need something, I need a spark, I need something, and I just don’t seem to have it. Some days it’s good, some days it’s not.”
One thing he did feel optimistic about: The return of on-site fans.
“I’ve missed this a lot,” he said. “Even though it’s only, whatever, 25 percent capacity this week, it feels so much more than that and it’s great to play in front of that. I’m looking forward to doing it again next week. I think that it is, I think we’re all sort of now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel where things can at least get back to some sort of normality pretty soon.
“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” he continued. “It’s going to be surreal looking back in 20 years’ time and sort of seeing what we lived through.”
5. Corey Conners’ wild finish.
The good news for Canada’s Corey Conners was that he eagled the par-5 16th hole to get within one of the lead. The bad news is he bogeyed 17 and 18 to shoot 74 and finish 8 under, three back.
Still, the solo third was his best result of the season.
“Yeah, it was a challenge,” Conners said of a day in which the field averaged 75.486. “Definitely a battle out there. I made some nice saves at the start of the round, just didn’t get the putts to fall today, the greens were rolling really fast, ball seemed to never stop.
“So it was very challenging,” Conners continued. “Gave myself a shot, made a really great eagle on 16 that felt pretty good, and bogeyed the last two holes, wasn’t great. But really challenging golf holes. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.” (There were no bogey-free rounds.)
TOUR TOP 10
Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills
It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.
The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.
Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.
Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.
Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.
A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.
Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.
Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.
Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.
If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.
Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.
When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.
Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards
Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.
Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.
Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.
“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.
“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”
After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.
Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.
Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.
“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.
“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.
“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”
Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.
“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.
“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”
For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.
“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.
“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)