ORLANDO, Fla. — Bryson DeChambeau gave the fans what they wanted Saturday.
On Sunday, he gave himself what he wanted: a cherished victory at the tournament named after one of his boyhood idols, Arnold Palmer.
In chilly, windy, tricky weather conditions at Bay Hill for the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the 27-year-old DeChambeau edged out 47-year-old Englishman Lee Westwood by one shot in what became a stirring back nine of match play.
DeChambeau shot one of only three sub-par rounds among the 72 players on Sunday — a final-round 1-under 71 — and finished 11-under par to Westwood’s 10-under.
But it was the way DeChambeau won that not only satisfied him most, but opened the eyes of his observers to the fact that he’s not merely a geeked-up, gym rat who hits the ball farther than anyone in the game.
DeChambeau excels at the little things that win golf tournaments as much as he does hitting tee shots that take your breath away — as he did when he bombed his tee shot over the large lake on the par-5 sixth hole on Saturday and threw his arms up like he’d just jacked a walk-off homer, afterward proclaiming that he “gave the fans what they wanted.’’
DeChambeau is like a slugger in baseball who hits more home runs than the next guy but also is a proficient bunter who moves the runners over when he needs to.
He’s a modern-day Babe Ruth who plays small-ball, too.
Bottom line: DeChambeau doesn’t capture his eighth career PGA Tour victory without making the par saves he did with his beautiful short game and making the clutch putts he did when he had to Sunday.
“You can’t just hit it far out here on the PGA Tour [and win],’’ DeChambeau said.
Of course, he has more updated tools in his arsenal than Westwood, who was trying to win his first PGA Tour event in more than a decade. That cannot be denied. DeChambeau’s length was an advantage — one that even Westwood in defeat described as “great to watch.’’
But, when you analyze how DeChambeau won, it was not about him far outdriving Westwood. It was about his complete game, the elements that the casual observer overlooks.
Sure, chicks dig the long ball. But they like winners, too. And DeChambeau on Sunday became the first multiple-winner on the PGA Tour this year.
Take the 72nd hole as Exhibit A as why it wasn’t necessarily DeChambeau’s length that was the only difference.
His drive on 18 went 303 yards. Westwood’s went 291 yards.
Westwood, likely needing birdie to force a playoff at one shot back, left his 159-yard approach shot out of a divot 65 feet short of the flag. DeChambeau’s approach shot came to rest 43 feet from the flag.
Westwood left himself 6 feet, 8 inches for par. DeChambeau left himself 5 feet, 5 inches for par. Westwood made his must-make, leaving DeChambeau to have to make his for the win.
“I think that it’s a very underrated aspect of my game,’’ DeChambeau said of his putting.
Clinging to a one-shot lead on the 11th hole, DeChambeau drained a 50-foot par-save putt and retained his lead. On No. 12, Westwood buried a 28-foot birdie putt to tie DeChambeau at 11-under.
They remained knotted at 11-under until Westwood blinked on the par-3 14th, leaving his first putt 11 feet short and missing the par-save and giving DeChambeau back his one-shot lead, which he would never relinquish.
Dechambeau, in fact, didn’t crack all day after hitting a dreadful opening tee shot at No. 1 and scrambling for bogey. That would be the first and only blemish on his scorecard all day.
You don’t do that simply by hitting the ball farther than your opponent. You do it by doing everything better, by outworking the competition, which is a mantra of DeChambeau, who was grinding on the range well past darkness on Saturday night.
That’s an element that has drawn Tiger Woods to DeChambeau. It’s a reason DeChambeau got an encouraging text message Sunday morning from Woods, who’s still in the hospital recovering from the serious injuries he sustained in a Feb. 23 car wreck.
“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,’ ’’ DeChambeau said. “This red cardigan [given to the winner in honor of Palmer] 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.’’