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    How to Grip a Putter: 9 Ways the Pros Use

    The claw. The two thumbs. The alternative reverse overlap. Every golfer at this week’s Masters Tournament has a preferred way to putt and a reason for doing it.AUGUSTA, Ga. — Accurate putting is widely considered the most pivotal golf skill, and the most intractable. While golfers generally hold their clubs the same way for a full swing, when it comes to rolling a little white ball into a hole roughly four inches wide, even the best players in the world contort their hands and arms into exotic grips to calm their nerves and foster consistency.Here are nine ways that top golfers at this week’s Masters Tournament try to solve the eternal puzzle of putting:Lee WestwoodThe ClawDoug Mills/The New York TimesLee Westwood: The ClawPopularized about 25 years ago, the claw grip, in right-handed golfers, features a right hand that does not merge with a stabilizing left hand at the top of the putter, as was done in conventional grips for decades. The right hand branches out on its own, with the putter pinched claw-like between the thumb and forefinger, which can purposely make the right hand more passive in the stroke.Bryson DeChambeauThe Arm LockDoug Mills/The New York TimesBryson DeChambeau: The Arm LockA college physics major whose early nickname on the PGA Tour was “the mad scientist,” DeChambeau was ranked 145th in putting on the PGA Tour until he converted to the arm-lock method and improved his putting ranking to 28th. It’s all about keeping the proper angles: DeChambeau turns his elbows outward in opposite directions and his wrists inward. Simple.Jordan SpiethThe Left-Hand LowDoug Mills/The New York TimesJordan Spieth: The Left-Hand LowThe left-hand low grip is likely the most widely used nontraditional way to grip the putter for right-handed golfers. It puts the left hand below the right hand and in an authoritative position to control the path of the putter head instead of a golfer’s dominant right hand. Interestingly, in Spieth’s case, he is naturally left-handed even though he plays golf right-handed.Matt WallaceTwo ThumbsDoug Mills/The New York TimesMatt Wallace: Two ThumbsWallace has his palms facing each other with both thumbs on the top of the putter shaft and the index fingers placed along opposing sides of the putter. In theory, this creates symmetry and permits the hands to hang straight down, rather than one above the other in a conventional grip. The shoulders remain level, which makes it easier to develop a (sometimes) preferred pendulum putting motion. Also known as the prayer grip.Phil MickelsonLefty ClawDoug Mills/The New York TimesPhil Mickelson: Lefty ClawMickelson is right-handed in most things he does other than golf, and his right hand, with a pointed index finger (sometimes called a pencil grip), becomes the top part of his version of the claw grip. The left hand is in the guiding position. Mickelson values the claw because it makes it easier to have “a longer, smoother stroke” on the fast greens of the Masters and tour events.Tiger WoodsThe Reverse OverlapDoug Mills/The New York TimesTiger Woods: The Reverse OverlapAlthough Woods is not at this year’s Masters, a photo from the 2020 tournament shows Woods using what is perhaps the most common putting grip in golf. He has rarely strayed from the revered reverse overlap. His left forefinger lies across the right hand, settling between the third and fourth fingers. Woods says the best part of the grip is the unity it brings to both hands.Brooks KoepkaAlternative Reverse OverlapDoug Mills/The New York TimesBrooks Koepka: Alternative Reverse OverlapKoepka, a four-time major champion, has adapted the reverse overlap by extending his right forefinger rather than curling it around the shaft. One intended advantage of this style is that the angle of the right wrist can remain the same through the stroke so that the putter face does not waver open or closed and cause an inconsistent ball path.Adam ScottLong Putter ClawDoug Mills/The New York TimesAdam Scott: Long Putter ClawScott is the only Masters champion to have used the older version of a long putter, which could be anchored against the chest. Revised rules forbid the top of the putter touching the body frame, but Scott has adjusted with a right-hand low claw grip. He also tends to leave the flagstick in the hole while putting, which is not common.Justin RoseModified ClawDoug Mills/The New York TimesJustin Rose: Modified ClawRose likes to think of his left arm as the driving force of his stroke, and he frequently practices putting with his left hand only. His version of the claw has his two right fingers over the top of the shaft instead of resting on the side. Asked why he prefers this grip, Rose had the most basic, succinct answer of all: “It feels simpler.”

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    Here Are The 5 Golfers to Watch at The 2021 Masters Tournament

    Tiger Woods is out with injuries, and Dustin Johnson is back to defend his title. Here are five more golfers to keep an eye on.When the best golfers in the world tee off at Augusta National Golf Club this week, the Masters will seem, to a large degree, like the Masters again. The azaleas should be blooming, and there will be fans, if only a limited amount, on the grounds.That was not the case in 2020. Because of the pandemic, the tournament was held in November instead of its traditional spot in April, and it was played without the boisterous galleries.Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked player in the world, won by five strokes with a record score of 20-under 268. Tiger Woods, the 2019 champion, tied for 38th. Woods won’t be playing at the Masters. He is recovering from injuries from a February car accident in California.Johnson, vying for his third major title, will be one of the favorites, along with Justin Thomas (No. 2) and Jon Rahm (No. 3).Here are five other players to keep an eye on.Bryson DeChambeauThere doesn’t seem to be a golf course that can neutralize DeChambeau’s distance off the tee. He’s averaging 320.8 yards, the best on the PGA Tour.It will serve him well at Augusta National. He should be able to easily reach the greens in two shots on the par-5s, which provide the best scoring opportunities. His power isn’t the only impressive part of his game. DeChambeau, ranked No. 5, has been able to make a lot of crucial putts.Before last year’s United States Open at Winged Foot, it wasn’t certain whether the way he planned to attack the course would pay off; the fairways were narrow and the rough was thick.No problem. DeChambeau, 27, won by six strokes and was the only player to finish under par.DeChambeau hasn’t had much success in his previous four appearances at Augusta. His best finish was a tie for 21st in 2016, just before he turned pro.Michael Reaves/Getty ImagesTony FinauSooner or later, Finau, 31, is going to break through on the big stage. Augusta National could be the place.Finau, too, hits the ball a long way. He is 15th on the tour in birdies and 11th in eagles. The course seems to suit him well. In his three starts, he has two top 10 finishes, including in 2019 when he tied for fifth, two shots behind Woods.Since 2017, Finau, ranked No. 13 in the world, has recorded 37 top 10s without a victory. His lone triumph came at the Puerto Rico Open in 2016.He came close to his second victory in January and February. He finished second in the Farmers Insurance Open and the Genesis Invitational. He shot a final-round 64 at the Genesis, but lost in a playoff to Max Homa.Finau has played well in the majors. In his last 11 appearances, he has recorded seven top 10s.Michael Reaves/Getty ImagesPatrick CantlayCantlay, 29, seems to always be in the hunt. In his last 10 starts, he has finished in the top 20 eight times. The only hiccup was a missed cut at last month’s Players Championship.Like Finau, he makes a lot of birdies. Heading into the Masters, he ranks fourth on the PGA Tour this season, with 4.68 birdies per round. He’s 13th in scoring average at just over 70.Cantlay played extremely well at the recent World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament. In his first two matches against Brian Harman and Carlos Ortiz, Cantlay recorded 14 birdies and an eagle. He failed to make it to the round of 16, losing in a playoff to Harman.Ranked No. 10, Cantlay trailed by only a shot heading into the final two rounds of the 2020 Masters. He faded over the weekend to end up in a tie for 17th. In 2019, he tied for ninth.Michael Reaves/Getty ImagesJordan SpiethUntil recently, it would have been a stretch to suggest that Spieth, 27, would be a factor at Augusta National. He hadn’t won a tournament in more than three years. Before 2018, he won 11 times, including three majors.The drought is over. Spieth captured the Valero Texas Open on Sunday by two strokes over Charley Hoffman. It was his first victory since the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.Spieth has played very well since February. He posted top 10 finishes in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Arnold Palmer Invitational. The only negative was that he did not perform well enough on Sundays. That wasn’t the case in Texas. He shot a 66 in the final round.What’s important, as always at the Masters, will be the ability to negotiate the treacherous greens. Spieth has handled the challenge well.His record in the tournament has been outstanding. He won the 2015 Masters with a score of 18-under 270. He has finished in the top three on three other occasions, including in 2014 when he was only 20.Michael Reaves/Getty ImagesSergio GarciaIn his last two starts — at the Players Championship and the Dell match play tournament — Garcia, 41, flashed some of the magic that has made him such a dynamic player for more than two decades.In the Players, he shot a 65 in the first round and was still in the hunt in the final round until he faded and tied for ninth. At the match play tournament, he made it to the quarterfinals before losing to Victor Perez.His walking off with a second green jacket — he won the 2017 Masters, his only major title — still seems like a long shot, but his recent play makes him a more viable contender. He is still a very good ball striker. The challenge for him, as usual, will be to make enough critical putts. More

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    Bryson DeChambeau’s Work Evolving Golf Is Not Done Yet

    At the Masters, the brash, brawny golfer imagined the sport’s future: even bigger, stronger athletes with faster, mightier swings than he already possesses. He can’t wait.AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bryson DeChambeau stormed the gates of venerable golf last year, plundering the mannerly landscape with swings at the ball so mighty it felt as if bystanders could pull a muscle just by standing too close to him.On Tuesday, DeChambeau, the reigning U.S. Open champion, roared back into Augusta National Golf Club, and while he is too polite to behave like an anarchist, he could not help but ponder the next stage of the rebellion he has begun.The entertaining DeChambeau envisioned sinewy 7-foot pro golfers overrunning the tidy links like so many giants in a miniature playground.“The massive gains will be in athletes, once you get somebody out here that’s a 7-foot-tall human being and they are able to swing a golf club at 145 miles an hour effortlessly,” DeChambeau said. “That’s when things get a little interesting.”Indeed, what a picture. Especially since dozens of current top PGA Tour golfers are no more than 5-foot-9. The evolution has a ways to go.As for the 145-mile-an-hour swing speed, consider that DeChambeau leads the PGA Tour at roughly 133 miles an hour. Adding another effortless 12 miles per an hour would most likely produce drives of nearly 400 yards.“That’s when I’m going to become obsolete, potentially even,” DeChambeau said with a smile.DeChambeau, 27, pushed out of golf already? A legion of young golf fans — and new golf fans lured to the game by DeChambeau’s brash, brawny style — might faint at the notion that their barrier-smashing hero could ever have an expiration date.Part of DeChambeau’s charm is how outlandish he thinks, and Tuesday was another example of Bryson going big, as he does with most everything.Still, there is little doubt that the movement he has spurred is taking hold for real. DeChambeau mentioned that he saw one of the young golfers entered in Augusta National’s Drive, Chip and Putt contest on Sunday mimicking the over-the-top swing sequence of the long-drive champion Kyle Berkshire. Or was he imitating DeChambeau?“I’ve had numerous college kids DM me on Instagram and ask me: ‘How do I get stronger? How do I get faster?’” DeChambeau said. “So you’re already starting to see it through — from collegiate level all the way to junior golf level.”He left out the pro level, where Rory McIlroy recently conceded that he messed up his swing this spring trying to emulate DeChambeau to gain more yards off the tee. Keep in mind that McIlroy ranks second on the PGA Tour in driving distance and was already considerably longer than most of his rivals, save one.But DeChambeau has vexed the competition almost as much as he has energized once-sleepy golf galleries. Now, fans at tournaments start cheering as soon as DeChambeau is within 50 yards of a tee, eager to see what feat of strength and timing he might unveil next.“It won’t stop; there’s just no way it will stop,” DeChambeau said. “It’s good for the game, too. You’re making it more inclusive to everybody when you’re doing that.”DeChambeau teed off on the seventh hole during a practice round on Monday.Justin Lane/EPA, via ShutterstockThis being the Masters, it’s almost obligatory for DeChambeau to coyly suggest he is about to begin using a more potent driver that will produce even longer drives.Last year, it was a 48-inch driver, the longest allowed in the rules. DeChambeau never used the club, but he did struggle to overpower the course and finished tied for 34th. This year, it’s a prototype Cobra driver with a new design and technology in the head and face of the club.Like any good performer who wants to keep his audience guessing, DeChambeau would say only so much about the new arrow in his quiver.“Obviously there’s something in the bag this week that’s very helpful — I won’t go into specifics of it,” he said. “But just know this has been a few years in the making, and I’m very excited for it. Whether it helps me perform at a higher level, I’m not sure, because it’s golf and you never know what happens.”But when asked which Augusta National holes he might approach differently because of distance he has gained off the tee, DeChambeau started talking about flying a drive over the trees on the right of the first hole, then started ticking off other possible targets. In a matter of seconds, he had mentioned five additional holes that might be vulnerable.DeChambeau has yet to conquer Augusta National’s devilish greens, and during last year’s Masters he also alluded to unspecified health issues, including dizziness. Staying in character, when asked if he was feeling better this week, DeChambeau delivered a response that was rich and technical.“It took about four or five months to figure out what it was,” he said. “We went through CT scans, X-rays, cardioid measurement. We had ultrasound on my heart, we had measurement of the blood vessels on my neck. You name it, we did it — sinus, CT scan measurements, infection checks and everything. And we couldn’t find anything.”DeChambeau fans can relax, because his revolution is still on schedule. Apparently, the last things doctors checked were DeChambeau’s brain oxygen levels because, he said, “The brain was stressed.”New breathing techniques were introduced and the illness disappeared like magic.“It literally just went away,” DeChambeau said, shrugging his shoulders and turning his palms upward.On to the next adventure. More

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    Without Tiger Woods, the 2021 Masters Leaderboard Is Wide Open

    As Augusta National faces life without Woods, possibly even beyond this year, several young golfers look ready to usher in a new era.AUGUSTA, Ga. — The Masters tournament, after an aberrant autumn appearance five months ago, returns this week to its customary place as a ritual of spring, and golf fans will find familiar the sight of vibrant azalea bushes and blooming magnolia trees. But beyond aesthetics at the Augusta National Golf Club, this year’s Masters may be at a crossroads, when golf’s most tradition-bound event turns a new page.Slightly more than a year ago, the energy driving the golf world was a fervent zeal to watch Tiger Woods defend his seismic 2019 Masters victory. Now, the next chapter of the Tiger era at the Masters remains wholly undefined. Because of the serious leg injuries he sustained in a February car crash, Woods will not compete at the Masters, something that has happened three times since 2014.This absence, however, is altogether different.Woods’s future as a competitive golfer is unclear, and the Masters marches on without the person at the cynosure of the tournament’s dominant narrative for nearly 25 years.“You can’t go to Augusta and not think about the guy,” Curtis Strange, a two-time United States Open champion who is now a broadcaster for ESPN, said last week of Woods. “He changed the game as we knew it right in front of our very eyes at Augusta.”But the void that Woods’s absence creates at the Masters could serve to underscore the most dramatic transformation in men’s professional golf: a changing of the guard at the top of the weekly leaderboard. New, younger personalities have stormed into the spotlight vacated by Woods, 45, and some of his contemporaries, like Phil Mickelson, who will turn 51 in June. The game has seen an infusion of not just youth, but players with back stories alluring enough to ease the transition.Bryson DeChambeau has been a dominant force in golf for several years.Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesFor example, a year ago, Bryson DeChambeau was still an eccentric curio on the PGA Tour, known more for his quirks than his accomplishments. In 2020 and continuing into this year, DeChambeau, 29, has been the dominant force in golf even when he is not on the course. With an intense fitness regimen and hard-swinging power game that launched prodigious drives, DeChambeau forced his rivals to reconsider everything, including their course strategies and their diets. Moreover, he captivated golf fans as a new breed of golfer in an age-old sport — daring, showy and charismatic.DeChambeau also backed up his boasts of reinventing golf by bludgeoning the 2020 United States Open field, and a venerable golf course, to claim a runaway victory that verified his status as a phenomenon. DeChambeau has not gone away, with one PGA Tour victory and a tie for third place at the Players Championship last month. It’s true that DeChambeau conspicuously failed to overpower Augusta National in November, but the golf course in the firm conditions of spring — as opposed to the soft fairways that greeted competitors in November — will give him another opportunity to prove that his brawny style can prevail.“He’s certainly got the talent, and maybe learning from the November experience will be very beneficial for him,” Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters champion and now a CBS broadcaster, said of DeChambeau last week.DeChambeau, who has never putted well on Augusta National’s slick greens in four previous Masters appearances, is not backing down.“I’m definitely hitting it a lot further than I was in November of last year,” he said in March, looking ahead to the Masters. “So there are some places that I will look at taking a line that’s going to be a little different than last time.”DeChambeau, the world No. 5, is not the only golfer under 30 years old among the top contenders this week. Thirteen of the top 25 ranked golfers, including four of the top five, are in their 20s. Many come with pedigrees, like world No. 2 Justin Thomas, 27, who last month added a Players Championship victory to go with the P.G.A. Championship he won in 2017. Ranked fourth worldwide, Collin Morikawa, 24, already has a tour victory this season and won last year’s P.G.A. Championship. Jon Rahm, 26, is the world’s third-ranked golfer and has had five top-10 finishes in his seven events this year. Xander Schauffele, 27, is No. 6 in the world rankings and tied for second in the 2019 Masters.There are factors working against a new generation of players leaping to the forefront of golf’s most-watched event this week, notably the accepted canon that a Masters champion must have acquired a wealth of practiced knowledge about the Augusta National layout to win. But the current crop of young players may be fast-tracking the learning curve.Or as Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, said last month in a telephone interview: “You can have plenty of experience at 27 years old. There could be four Masters champions in a six-year span that are under 30. That would not surprise me in the least.”Jordan Spieth, top left, has his driver worked on during a practice round.Doug Mills/The New York TimesJordan Spieth, who won the 2015 Masters when he was 21, is another young golfer whose recent form makes him a candidate to be slipping on a green jacket after the final round on Sunday. Spieth has won three major golf championships, but had gone nearly four years without a tour victory until he won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday. Spieth’s revival has put him back in the mix, and he insists that his age group is positioned to make a run at several Masters championships. He did not rule out crowning a champion who was playing in his first Masters, something that has not happened since Fuzzy Zoeller won the tournament in 1979.“I wouldn’t be surprised going forward if you end up getting a first-time winner at some point or a number of young guys that are able to do it,” Spieth said last week.Spieth said Augusta National’s extremely hilly terrain, a feature that is hard to grasp from watching the event on television, might especially benefit younger players.“Honestly, it’s a tough walk, it’s one of the toughest walks on tour,” Spieth said of Augusta National. “Physically, it can take a toll. So you would think that guys that are in their mid-20s would be in the best position physically.”Other less-than-household names within golf’s youth movement may have escaped the attention of casual golf fans but are nonetheless worthy contenders this week. Foremost in that group is Sungjae Im, 23, of South Korea, who was the PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2019 and tied for second in his Masters debut last year. No Asian has won the Masters, although that has not stopped Im from dreaming of a Korean-style menu that will be served at the annual champions-only dinner the year after he wins the tournament.“Marinated ribs, of course,” he said in November with a grin.There are few Black players in this year’s Masters field, although Tony Finau, who finished tied for fifth in 2019 and is the world’s 13th ranked golfer, is among the contenders for the title. Vijay Singh, the Masters champion in 2000, is also competing.Change, like the passing of a torch from generation to generation, is in the air at the Masters despite the tournament’s reputation for time-honored traditions. And golf fans may already be warming up to the makeover taking place at the top of the leaderboards.With the television viewership declining for other sports lately, the ratings for PGA Tour events this year have increased by 10 to 20 percent, and some in golf credit the surge to the increasing prominence of what Jim Nantz, the longtime CBS broadcaster, called “the new brigade.”“We’ve arrived at a point now where we don’t have to rely on just Tiger,” Nantz said last week. “We all know how enormous his presence is — maybe he comes back one day, that’s not what we’re addressing here. But how does the sport transition to a time when he is not at the top of the game?”Nantz continued: “There are so many interesting figures now that are competing at the highest level of our sport and them being certified as great players, people are going to watch more often.”Dustin Johnson, left, and Rory McIlroy walk with their caddies during a practice round at Augusta National.Doug Mills/The New York Times More

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    Justin Thomas Surges to Win the Players Championship

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyJustin Thomas Surges to Win the Players ChampionshipThomas, who entered the final round Sunday three strokes behind the leader, won his 14th career title on the PGA Tour.Justin Thomas held off Lee Westwood and Bryson DeChambeau to win the Players Championship.Credit…Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesMarch 14, 2021, 9:09 p.m. ETPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — It was evident early that the final round of the Players Championship might not unfold as expected when Bryson DeChambeau took one of his trademark mighty swipes and barely made contact with the top of his golf ball, which nose-dived and skittered into a pond roughly 100 yards away.Next, on the same tee, was Lee Westwood, who was leading the tournament and predicted to duel DeChambeau, who was in second place after the first three rounds, throughout Sunday afternoon. Westwood hit a slice so crooked it would have warmed the heart of the everyday hacker. Westwood’s ball plunked into a different pond than DeChambeau’s, but the tone for the day was undeniably cast.Playing in the pairing ahead of DeChambeau and Westwood, Justin Thomas was not aware of the travails going on behind him. But he had a studied understanding.“I’ve watched this tournament for years,” Thomas said, “and I know lots of crazy things can happen.”Thomas began the last round three strokes behind Westwood but passed him, and DeChambeau, to take the tournament lead with an eagle on the 11th hole. From there, as his rivals wobbled, he was steady, especially when he birdied the 16th and made gritty pars on the two treacherous closing holes at the TPC-Sawgrass course.On a day of unforeseen ups and downs, Thomas’s consistency led to a one-stroke victory and another noteworthy title, his 14th on the PGA Tour. Thomas, 27, has also won a P.G.A. Championship and the 2017 FedEx Cup playoffs.“I was bold when I had to be — I took risks,” Thomas, who finished the tournament at 14-under par, said afterward. “But I was also patient when things didn’t go exactly as planned because you knew it was going to be that type of day.”The victory also was a respite in a stormy year for Thomas, the second ranked golfer in the world.In January, a television boom microphone caught him muttering a homophobic slur to himself after a short missed putt at the Sony Open. Thomas apologized immediately and has not shied from the consequences, which included a social media outcry and the loss of his clothing sponsor.In February, his 89-year-old paternal grandfather, Paul, a P.G.A. professional with whom Thomas talked daily, died. Later that month, Tiger Woods, who has become one of Thomas’s closest friends, was seriously injured in a car crash.Since the crash, Thomas has stayed in almost daily contact with Woods, including on Sunday when Woods wished Thomas luck before the final round. In his last four tournaments this year, Thomas had seemed distracted and turned in poor results, especially for a player of his recent pedigree.“It’s been a bad couple of months,” Thomas said after Sunday’s victory. He added: “I told my family I’m ready for something good to happen this year. I’d say this qualifies.”Thomas was in danger of missing the cut with nine holes remaining in his second round on Friday, but he rallied with four birdies on the back nine to earn a spot in the last two rounds. He began Sunday with seven consecutive pars on a warm but mostly windless day in northeast Florida. Though the conditions were benign, they still did not lead to many low scores on the devilish Pete Dye-designed layout. Thomas, whose closing 36-hole score of 12 under par was a tournament record, vaulted to the top of the leaderboard with birdies on the ninth, 10th and 12th holes — along with his eagle on the par-5 11th hole.Lee Westwood finished second for the second consecutive tournament.Credit…Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesWith DeChambeau and Westwood, the top two finishers at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, trailing but not totally out of the picture, Thomas came to the par-5 16th hole needing a daring strike. For his second shot from the fairway, Thomas hit a gutsy 5-wood that curled onto the 16th green from 228 yards. It was Thomas’s first attempt at an eagle putt in his career on the golf course’s 16th hole, which he did not make from 46 feet. But he tapped the ball in for a crucial, timely birdie.“I was proud that I took some chances that paid off,” Thomas said.A second successive second-place finish did not leave Westwood, who will turn 48 in April, dejected. He appeared at a news conference with a wide smile.“I’m just having so much fun — everybody keeps telling me how old I am,” Westwood said, laughing. “I’m still out here contending for tournaments and playing in final groups with great players.”DeChambeau said he had never hit a shot in competition like his knuckling mis-hit off the tee on the fourth hole Sunday, but he was not overly dispirited either.“I don’t know what happened on four — that’s the game and I’m OK with it,” DeChambeau said. “Still smiling after. It just seemed like something wasn’t going my way today for some reason. I could just feel it. It was weird.”Thomas, despite the outcome, was not without at least one moment of fear that one of his shots might find a water hazard at an inopportune time. His drive off the 18th tee landed only a few feet from the large pond to the left of the fairway.“I thought it was 50-50 whether it was going to be dry or in the water,” Thomas said of the shot, which ricocheted to the right, away from the hazard, on its first bounce.He continued, “When you win tournaments, you get lucky breaks like that.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Bryson DeChambeau Keeps the Crowd Riveted at the Players Championship

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyBryson DeChambeau Keeps the Crowd Riveted at the Players ChampionshipThe question of whether the big-hitting DeChambeau would pull out his driver seemed as compelling as the actual competition.Bryson DeChambeau played a shot from near the 12th hole back to the 14th as fans looked on at the Players Championship on Friday.Credit…Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMarch 12, 2021, 8:54 p.m. ETPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Throughout the second round of the Players Championship on Friday, an entertaining crew of the world’s best golfers vied for the tournament lead. But for several hours, most fans were transfixed by a different matter: Whether Bryson DeChambeau would hit a prudent iron or take a mighty lash with his driver on hole after hole.In this recurring drama, it seemed as if most of the roughly 10,000 spectators permitted on the spacious grounds of the T.P.C. Sawgrass golf course were packed behind DeChambeau as he stood on a tee box and deliberated how to best attack a par-4 or par-5. The tension was palpable, and the fans hushed when DeChambeau moved toward his golf bag.As DeChambeau explained later, if he ultimately pulled an iron from the bag, the response was a crestfallen bellowing, as if the crowd had seen a child’s just-bought ice cream cone fall and splatter on the ground.“It’s always like a big ‘Awwww’ for an iron,” DeChambeau said after his round on Friday.And if he tugged his mammoth driver from the bag? Think climatic movie scene in which a hero finally vanquishes the villain.“If it’s the driver, it’s like, ‘Yeah!’ ” DeChambeau said with a hearty grin.It has come to this on the PGA Tour, and perhaps it is not a surprise. Winning golf is entertainment, but it’s no match for a dose of swashbuckling charisma mixed with the sight of a golf ball smashed as far as 380 yards.The DeChambeau era in men’s professional golf continues with resounding impact. After Friday’s round, Rory McIlroy, a four-time major championship winner who missed the cut, blamed trying to play too much like DeChambeau for his poor performance.While hitting towering drives, DeChambeau, the reigning United States Open champion, also shot a three-under-par 69 on Friday that put him at six under for the tournament and only three strokes behind the second-round leader, Lee Westwood. Play was suspended Friday evening because of darkness, with a small number of players unable to finish their second rounds.DeChambeau, who defeated Westwood in a final-round duel last weekend to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, is clearly buoyed by the fans’ attention. Their energy seems to inspire him, though he might not hit the driver as often as they would like on the tight T.P.C. Sawgrass layout. Between shots, he freely, and warmly, banters with the crowd.“They always ask how many protein shakes I’ve had, which is funny,” he said, “and I always reply back with however many I’ve had that day, for the most part.”Protein shakes are a staple of the diet that helped DeChambeau gain 40 pounds last year, although he has slimmed down by at least 15 now. As an explanation, DeChambeau said he had consumed only four shakes by Friday afternoon, or about half his intake four months ago.While DeChambeau hit several exceptional drives and approach shots on Friday, finishing with five birdies and a double-bogey, he was disappointed by his ball striking and headed to the practice range shortly after his round. He was still there pounding balls three hours later.Asked if he ever comes off the golf course satisfied and skips the post-round practice, DeChambeau, 27, blurted: “Never. Because my brain is — I mean, I’m a perfectionist, and I’ll continue to be so until the day I die and until the day I stop playing this game. That’s just the way I am. I love it about me.”He smiled and added, “But at the same time it makes me worry about stuff a lot.”DeChambeau at the ninth tee. He hit several exceptional drives Friday.Credit…Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports, via ReutersThough DeChambeau once again cast a large shadow on a PGA Tour event, he was far from the only golfer making news.Viktor Hovland, the ascending 23-year-old who is ranked 13th in the world, missed the cut on Friday in part because his mother, who was watching the tournament at home in Norway, noticed a rules violation that he had committed in the first round and called it to his attention later. Her intervention led to a two-stroke penalty.Hovland finished Friday at two over for the tournament, or two strokes above the cut line. He received the penalty for inadvertently playing his ball from the wrong place on the 15th green in the first round on Thursday.As is custom, Hovland had moved his ball out of a competitor’s putting line. But then he failed to replace it in the proper spot, although he did not move it closer to the hole or gain any apparent advantage.According to the NBC broadcast of the Players Championship on Friday, Hovland received a call from his mother after the first round and then contacted PGA Tour officials, who reviewed video of the incident and verified Hovland’s mistake.“It’s unfortunate; I’ve already kind of put that past me,” Hovland said calmly after shooting 74 on Friday. “I’m just more disappointed that I wasn’t able to play better.”Hovland was not nearly as disconsolate as McIlroy, who shot 75 on Friday after a glaring 79 on Thursday. Like so many others at this year’s Players Championship, McIlroy had DeChambeau on his mind, and he believes trying to keep up with DeChambeau’s prodigious distance has led to his recent subpar play.Late last year, after DeChambeau’s U.S. Open victory, McIlroy, already one of the longest hitters on the tour, altered his swing in an attempt to add even more yardage to his drives.“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t anything to do with what Bryson did at the U.S. Open,” McIlroy said. “I think a lot of people saw that and were like, ‘Whoa, if this is the way they’re going to set golf courses up in the future, it helps.’”McIlroy now considers that a mistake.“I thought being able to get some more speed is a good thing,” he said. “And maybe — to the detriment a little bit of my swing — I got there. But I just need to maybe rein it back in a little bit.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    With Reminders to ‘Play Boldly,’ Bryson DeChambeau Wins Arnold Palmer Invitational

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyWith Reminders to ‘Play Boldly,’ Bryson DeChambeau Wins Arnold Palmer InvitationalDeChambeau had counsel in the form of an old letter from Palmer and texts from Tiger Woods as he won his first tournament of the year on Sunday.Bryson DeChambeau putting on the red cardigan awarded to the winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The sweater had been a signature Palmer garment.Credit…John Raoux/Associated PressMarch 7, 2021, 9:33 p.m. ETORLANDO, 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.DeChambeau bested Lee Westwood in a two-man race for the title.Credit…Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesAfter 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.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More