HARTFORD, CT – The Travelers Championship’s star-studded field got a little brighter Sunday.
Bryson DeChambeau, who committed to Connecticut’s biggest sporting event three weeks ago, made a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to win his second PGA Tour title in 10 months, the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club, the House That Jack Nicklaus Built in Dublin, Ohio.
DeChambeau, 24, beat Byeong Hun An and Kyle Stanley, who bogeyed the final hole of regulation and first playoff hole after carding four consecutive birdies to get back into the title chase. DeChambeau and An also bogeyed the 72nd hole but made saving pars on the first playoff hole, No. 18, to stay in the chase.
On the second extra hole, An pulled his second shot over the green into the crowd but made a brilliant flop shot after a drop that stopped two feet from a par. But he never had a chance to finish the hole as DeChambeau converted his decisive stroke to give him a second victory to go with the 2017 John Deere Classic and vault to No. 4 in the FedEx Cup standings.
“I can’t believe I did it,” said DeChambeau, who three-putted the 18th from 55 feet to close with a 1-under-par 71 for a 72-hole total of 15-under 273. “I had problems with my ball-striking all week, but I managed to get it up and down almost every time (17-for-21).”
By winning the first three-man playoff in the 42-year history of the tournament, DeChambeau joined Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to win the U.S. Amateur, NCAA Championship and Memorial. His victory came two months after he finished second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla.
DeChambeau is known as “the mad scientist of the PGA Tour.” He uses the same length irons and physics to calculate his yardages. He also has unconventional methods of training, practice and recovery, using what is available to him even if others don’t agree.
“I would say disappointed because whenever you look at somebody, don’t judge them by the cover, right?” DeChambeau said of the scrutiny under which some of his views have come. “You got to judge them by the results and the work ethic and the dedication and the perseverance that the person has.
“Be able to look at them and say, ‘All right, what is he actually doing, why is he doing this, could this actually be beneficial to me.’ And just take positives from the uniqueness of my game.”
DeChambeau doesn’t push other Tour players to follow his lead, but he does have backing from the greatest of all time.
“You wait and see,” Nicklaus said. “He wins a few more tournaments, you find out how many people have sets of clubs the same length. Just guarantee it.”
An, another former U.S. Amateur champion, began the day three back but made five birdies in the last 12 holes to shoot 69 and get into the playoff. The tie for second matched his best PGA Tour finish. An also lost in a three-way playoff at the 2016 Zurich Classic of New Orleans and is 0-2 on the PGA Tour in playoffs.
Stanley won the Tough Luck of the Week Award when his drive on the final hole of regulation caromed off a tree and ricocheted 50 yards left into deep rough. He made bogey 5 but still got into the playoff, though that stay didn’t last long when his approach from deep rough and the ball well above his feet squirted to the right, leading to his elimination.
Patrick Cantlay, whose 60 in the second round of the 2011 Travelers was a course record and the lowest round by an amateur in PGA Tour history, birdied four of the first eight holes and led by two shots heading to the back nine. But he didn’t make a birdie over the last 10 holes and lost the lead when he bogeyed the 12th hole before DeChambeau made birdie at the par-3. Cantlay fell two back when he found two bunkers and made bogey at the 17th hole before narrowly missing a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole to shoot 71 and finish fourth at 274.
Peter Uihlein, a native of New Bedford, Mass., had five of his six birdies in a seven-hole stretch starting at No. 5 on the way to bogey-free 66 that was the second lowest round of the day to Peter Oosthuizen’s 65 and vaulted him into solo fifth. It was the fourth Top-10 in 18 starts this season for the former Oklahoma State Cowboy who the Web.com Tour’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship last September at the Scarlet Course at Ohio State University Golf Club in nearby Columbus, Ohio. The win in the first of four Web.com Tour events helped Uihlein, who played several years on the European PGA Tour, earn his PGA Tour card for the 2017-18 season.
Joaquin Nieman, the 19-year-old from Chile who began the day one stroke behind leader DeChambeau, birdied the 18th hole to tie for sixth at 276 with 2010 Memorial champion Justin Rose (70), who won the Fort Worth Invitational the previous week. Nieman’s third top-10 finish in five PGA Tour starts was enough for him to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, meaning he can get unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the year.
Justin Thomas shot 68 to tie for eighth at 277 and remain No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankin and FedEx Cup standings. He finished eagle-birdie-par-birdie to notch his sixth Top-10 finish in 13 starts and back-to-back Top-10s in the Memorial Tournament after he tied for fourth in 2017.
Thomas tied with former No. 1 Rory McIlroy (69), Dustin Johnson (67), Patrick Rodgers (68) and Rickie Fowler (68). After making the cut on the number at even-par, McIlroy recorded weekend rounds of 64-69 to secure his third Top-10. His third-round 64 was the lowest round of the tournament
Tiger Woods began the final round five strokes back pulled within three with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 fifth hole. But he missed a 3-foot par putt at No. 10 and then hit his drive into a backyard out of bounds on the 13th hole for the second time this week. He closed with 72 for 279 and a tie for 23rd that was largely the result being next-to-last in the key putting statistic among the 73 players who played four rounds.
“If I just putt normally, I probably would be right there with those guys and up there in the last couple of groups,” said Woods, the five-time Memorial Tournament winner. “If I just keep building on this, with how I’m hitting it right now, I’m in good shape for two weeks from now.”
That would be for the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Course in Southampton, N.Y., which is a week before the Travelers Championship.
DeChambeau, Thomas and McIlroy are among the early commitments to the Travelers Championship. Other marquee names include defending Jordan Spieth, who missed the Memorial cut; former No. 1 Jason Day, two-time Travelers winner Bubba Watson, Paul Casey, major championship winners Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk, who shot a PGA Tour record 58 in the final round of the 2016 Travelers, Charley Hoffman and Fairfield native J.J. Henry, who notched his first of three PGA Tour victories in the 2005 Buick Championship in Cromwell and is the only player from Connecticut to win the tournament.
Youngsters 15 and under accompanied by a paying adult are admitted free each day of the tournament. For more information on the biggest sporting event in Connecticut, visit www.travelerschampionship.com.