By DOUG FERGUSON
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — For the fourth straight year, Bryson DeChambeau leaves Ohio feeling like a winner. This time he had a trophy to show for it, and a handshake with Jack Nicklaus to remember. DeChambeau finally made it easy on himself the third time playing the 18th hole at the Muirfield Village on Sunday, rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to beat Byeong Hun An and win the Memorial. “I can’t believe I did it,” said DeChambeau, a winner for the second time on the PGA Tour. He had played the Memorial only once before, though the 24-year-old Californian has been a regular in central Ohio.
He has made it through the 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier each of the last three years, all in the Columbus area. This was far more rewarding. DeChambeau watched his putt disappeared and raised both arms, pumping them seven times as he yelled above the cheers of fans. Many of them lingered at the 18th green after spending much of the final round as if this might be the day Tiger Woods returned to winning. It wasn’t. Woods was never a serious factor, especially after missing a 3-foot par putt on the 10th hole and hitting another tee shot into someone’s backyard on the 13th hole. One of his best weeks hitting the ball ended with an even-par 72 and a six-way tie for 23rd.
The finish was no less entertaining. DeChambeau went from a two-shot deficit at the turn to a one-shot lead after No. 12, and he kept it the rest of the way until a three-putt bogey on the 18th hole from about 55 feet for a 1-under 71. That tied with An, who had closed with a 69 in the group ahead and was the first to reach 15-under 273. Kyle Stanley joined them in playoff. He hit into the water on the par-3 12th to fall five shots behind with six holes to play, only to run off four straight birdies, capping the big run with a 30-foot putt on the 17th to tie DeChambeau.
Just his luck, Stanley hit a tree on the right elbow of the dogleg at No. 18, and it shot the ball across the fairway and nearly into a creek, except the ankle-deep rough was thick enough to slow it. Even so, he could only advance it 100 yards and made bogey for a 70. In the playoff, his tee shot was enough to the right that the ball was well above his feet in thick grass. Stanley choked up and took a swing, but the ball squirted ou t about 30 yards to the right, leading to another bogey, and he was quickly eliminated. “A couple bad breaks on 18,” Stanley said. “I mean in the playoff, if I knock that ball 2-3 feet right of where it was I would have had a shot. But after hole 12 my chances were looking pretty slim, so to come back and make some birdies coming in … it’s a bit of a sour finish, but proud of the way I hung in there.”
An took some of the pressure off DeChambeau on the second playoff hole, also on No. 18, when he yanked his approach into the gallery. He played a marvelous flop shot out of deep rough to a couple of feet for a certain par, only for DeChambeau to hit his approach 12 feet behind the hole and make the birdie. “I finally got it right the third time,” DeChambeau said. “It took me a little bit.” Patrick Cantlay also had a chance on Sunday, leading by two shots going to the back nine. But he didn’t make a birdie over his last 10 holes, and he fell back when he went bunker-to-bunker on the 17th and made bogey to fall two strokes behind. Cantlay narrowly missed a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole, shot 71 and finished fourth. Peter Uihlein (66) was alone in fifth.
Joaquin Niemann, the 19-year-old from Chile, birdied the 18th hole to tie for sixth. That was enough for him to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, meaning he can get unlimited sponsor exemptions. Justin Thomas shot 68 and tied for eighth in his debut at No. 1 in the world. He will keep that ranking going into the U.S. Open. Woods started five shots behind. He pulled to within three shots with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 fifth hole, but he didn’t make another birdie until he had fallen seven shots behind and only had eight holes in front of him. Woods was second to last in the key putting statistic among the 73 players who went all 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,” Wood said.
“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.” The next stop for Woods is the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. DeChambeau will be there, too, his confidence higher than ever. He first played the Memorial in 2016 and was coming off four straight missed cuts. He tied for 38th that week, a small victory, but realized his game wasn’t good enough. Now, he has PGA Tour titles in successive seasons. And his victory moved him to No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings.