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2021 Players Championship leaderboard breakdown: Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas aim to run down Lee Westwood

For the second straight week, a 47-year-old Englishman with an affinity for great wines and long irons will try and take down a 27-year-old kid who has a driving range setup in his living room and talks about golf like it’s nuclear physics. This is the greatest, dumbest sport in the world.

Lee Westwood raised the roof with a 68 on Saturday to open up a two-stroke lead on Bryson DeChambeau going into Sunday’s final round of the 2021 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. They were also paired together as the final twosome last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational where DeChambeau clipped Westwood by a stroke.

Let’s take a look at how those two played on Saturday and what’s in store for what could be a wild Sunday finish in the biggest PGA Tour event of the year. Westwood (9/2) is the narrow favorite over DeChambeau (5/2), according to William Hill Sportsbook, but we’ll take a look at who else can catch those two on Sunday afternoon.

1. Lee Westwood (-13): Westwood went bogey-free for the second straight day (at TPC Sawgrass!). After opening with nine straight pars, he saved his best for last. With three birdies in his first seven holes on the back nine, Westwood stepped to the famous par-3 17th and hit a shot against the backboard beyond the hole. But it never came back down. So he san the 25-foot for birdie instead and doubled his lead over Bryson before turning to the sparse crowd on No. 17 and raising the roof. What a world. 

The best thing about this week (and last) is that it feels like the person who is most surprised and delighted by his performance and the show he’s putting on is Westwood himself. A win on Sunday would be the biggest of an incredible career. He’ll be hoping the setup at TPC Sawgrass is a bookend of what players saw on Thursday. Fast, tough and a scoring average well over par.

2. Bryson DeChambeau (-11): The Big Golfer rolled in a 15-footer on the final hole to save par that highlighted his best putting day of the week. He’s proving over and over again this week that he’s not just the one-trick pony everyone presumes. Whereas he gained the majority of his strokes off the tee, this week he’s gained just 18% of them with the big stick. It’s absolutely terrifying that his best performances come at traditionally the toughest golf courses, which he — like Westwood — will also hope for on Sunday.

T3. Doug Ghim, Justin Thomas (-10): TPC Sawgrass almost always produces a massive Moving Day score, and this year’s edition belonged to Justin Thomas. J.T. started hot with birdies at his first four, and capped his day with maybe the shot of the tournament on No. 16 when he hit a 204-yard shot to 7 inches. He closed 3-4 and had two putts at tying the course record of 63. 

“I like Saturdays around this place,” Thomas told Golf Channel after his round. “It’s such a fun course to play because you can do something like this. You can get hot, and if you make the cut you can get it going.”

It will be difficult to back up that 64 on Sunday, though J.T. is more capable than most and also didn’t cobble together that score exclusively with a hot putter. If the driver cooperates again in the finale on Sunday, he has enough firepower certainly to catch Bryson and probably Westwood as well if there are any big mistakes in there.

T5. Paul Casey, Jon Rahm, Brian Harman (-9): This trio was a combined 13 under on Saturday, though Casey and Rahm are the ones that intrigue for a come-from-behind win on Sunday. Casey has been putting it barely better then field average, but Rahm comes with more firepower. It’s not all that difficult to envision him posting 66 in nasty conditions and running down the leaders. On Saturday, he shot 67 and only birdied one of the four par 5s. He’ll be a fun early rabbit for the leaders to eye.

T8. Chris Kirk, Sergio Garcia, Matthew Fitzpatrick (-8): On the other hand, this trio combined to shoot just 2 under on Saturday, and all three were pretty disappointing on the easiest day of the event. Kirk is second in the event only to Ghim in strokes gained tee to green (and both have been horrendous with the putter). This group is almost certainly too far back to catch Westwood or DeChambeau — especially with their staying power — and it would take the round of a career to get the win.

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