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News24.com | Big-hitting Bryson, magical Spieth: Golf talking points

Bryson DeChambeau claimed his first win since last year’s US Open at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the weekend in a tournament that might be best remembered for his monstrous tee shots on the par-five sixth hole.

Here, AFP Sport looks at three talking points this week in golf, ahead of the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday:

DeChambeau rediscovers putting touch

DeChambeau’s big hitting off the tee has been well documented and it helped him lift his maiden major trophy at the 2020 US Open, but his excellent putting was also a bedrock of his game that week.

The 27-year-old has struggled to find his best form since his triumph at Winged Foot last September despite remaining the best on tour in strokes gained off the tee.

But his putting touch returned at the perfect time at Bay Hill on Sunday, with a long birdie putt on the fourth followed by a monster 49-foot par save on the 11th hole to stay one stroke ahead of Lee Westwood.

“It was massive,” DeChambeau said. “I mean, knowing what I know now, it obviously was the shot of the day for me.”

For most fans, the shot of the day would have been the new world number six’s massive drive over the lake on the sixth, which left him only 88 yards for his second shot into the par five.

But, fittingly, it was a cool five-and-a-half-foot par putt under severe pressure which secured the win on the final green.

“Bryson hit a lot of good shots and made some nice putts, especially the one at the last,” runner-up Westwood told Sky Sports Golf. “When I put a bit of pressure on him, it would’ve been easy to miss that one.”

Spieth finding some old magic

Jordan Spieth remains without a victory since his third major title at the 2017 British Open, but his return to form continued in Florida.

Although still not at his absolute best, especially from the tee, the former world number one delighted the 25-percent capacity crowd with some stunning shots over the week.

A hole-in-one at the par-three second on Saturday was the highlight, but a holed bunker shot and two trademark long putts were reminders of what made Spieth the best golfer on the planet.

“I made a step in the right direction today, regardless of the result,” Spieth said after finishing tied-fourth, his third top-five effort in four events.

The 27-year-old had only finished in the top five once in his previous 60 tournaments, dating back to the 2018 Masters.

Westwood boosts Ryder Cup hopes

The 47-year-old Westwood narrowly missed out on becoming the oldest non-American to win on the PGA Tour, but proved he can still mix it with the current generation of star players.

The former world number one played an excellent one-over-par final round to almost keep pace with DeChambeau, but missed putts cost him a first PGA Tour title since 2010.

Race to Dubai champion Westwood’s performance did boost his hopes of making Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team for the matches at Whistling Straits later this year.

He missed out on the victorious 2018 side, having played in 10 successive Ryder Cups from 1997.

World rankings

Men’s top 20 for the week beginning March 8, 2021 (change from last week):

1. Dustin Johnson (USA) 12.00 average pts

2. Jon Rahm (ESP) 8.83

3. Justin Thomas (USA) 8.18

4. Collin Morikawa (USA) 8.01

5. Xander Schauffele (USA) 7.21

6. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 7.12 (+5)

7. Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 6.47 (-1)

8. Patrick Reed 6.35 (+1)

9. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 6.35 (-2)

10. Webb Simpson (USA) 6.34

11. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 6.31 (-3)

12. Brooks Koepka (USA) 6.03

13. Viktor Hovland (NOR) 5.54

14. Tony Finau (USA) 5.51

15. Daniel Berger (USA) 4.78

16. Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 4.52

17. Im Sung-jae (KOR) 4.23

18. Harris English (USA) 4.18 (+1)

19. Paul Casey (ENG) 4.14 (-1)

20. Matthew Wolff (USA) 4.08

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