Leishman snares win with stellar finish
March 20, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Marc Leishman shoots 69 to win at Arnold PalmerIn the final round of the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, Marc Leishman played steady all day, highlighted by a 51-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th hole, to capture his second career win on the PGA TOUR.
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where Marc Leishman produced a Sunday charge Arnold Palmer would have been proud of to snare the trophy, and the red cardigan, at Bay Hill.
Here’s five observations from the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard where Leishman claimed his second PGA TOUR title and Mr. Palmer’s life well played was honored justly.
1. The loss of the legendary Arnold Palmer still burns deep for the entire world of golf but at Bay Hill this week everyone is to be commended for a wonderful celebration of Mr. Palmer’s life and legacy. “You see guys win and he’s waiting there on the back of the green,” Leishman said. “And to not have that is obviously very sad, but to win here is just a dream come true.” Grandson Sam Saunders was a picture of class both on and off the course as he helped ensure everything went seamlessly. Hosts Graeme McDowell, Peter Jacobsen, Curtis Strange, Annika Sorenstam and Tom Ridge were impeccable also. The course itself was in sensational condition and provided a great canvass for the players to conduct their business. Brandt Snedeker said Palmer “Would’ve been smiling all day,” of how tough but fair it played. The wonderful, striking bronze statue of Palmer near the first tee is exceptional. The opening ceremony where Saunders led a procession of drives out along the range by the players was fitting of the swashbuckling Palmer. The red alpaca cardigan presented to the winner was another first-class addition to the tournament. Every little touch mattered. “It’s been an awesome start to a new era. We all miss my grandfather, but I think he’d be proud of what we’ve done this year,” Saunders said. And he’s right. It is hard to imagine Palmer being anything but immensely proud. Players noticeably tried to emulate the ideals Palmer stood for all week. “It was an unsaid opportunity this week for guys to conduct themselves the way they should and learn from a role model like Palmer,” McDowell said. “I felt personally this week every time I signed an autograph, I made more of an effort. This week is an opportunity for guys to ask themselves if they’re being a role model for kids - am I doing the right things - how can I be a better pro and better person. I think reverence is a good word to use for what this week means.”
2. Leishman fittingly came from behind to win – in true Palmer fashion – with his 51-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole giving him the lead for the first time Sunday. Having started three shots back of Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman you could assume Leishman would’ve thought the challenge ahead was certainly unlikely. But then you must have forgotten his first PGA TOUR win. Leishman won the 2012 Travelers Championship when starting six shots back going to Sunday. He knows how to surge. Perhaps just as impressive as the eagle putt were his two par saves that followed. Adrenalin saw a great strike find the bunker on 17 but he calmly saved par and then after a wild tee shot on 18 and a forced lay-up he conjured up his best bump-and-run style pitch – a staple where he grew up on the sandbelt in Melbourne – to just three feet.
3. Seeing a pregnant Audrey Leishman and sons Harvey and Ollie on the 18th green celebrating the victory is something that I’m not afraid to admit brought a tear to my eye. The fight the family endured when Audrey suffered from acute respiratory distress syndrome and toxic shock syndrome in 2015 was as serious as it gets. Given just a five percent chance to live at the time it appeared one of the nicest men in the golf fraternity was going to be hit with the cruelest blow of all, losing the love of his life, and with it his will to play golf. Instead Leishman was already resigned to becoming a stay at home dad, determined to raise his two boys in a manner Audrey would be proud of. Thankfully history shows Audrey pulled through and now they await their first daughter’s arrival. Palmer was a proud family man and I can personally vouch the first winner without the legend there to see it is as respectable a human you will come across.
4. Perhaps we are finally going to see Leishman hit the heights in the game expected of him many years ago. Leishman was the 2009 PGA TOUR Rookie of The Year, the first and only Australian to win the award. Adam Scott, Jason Day… they did not claim the accolade like their countryman. He surged to the award thanks to a solid FedExCup Playoffs run but it remains the only year he has forced his way to the TOUR Championship. Even in 2012 when he claimed his first TOUR win Leishman couldn’t push his way into the elite playoff bracket. The issue has been consistency. We have seen flashes of brilliance, but not a prolonged stretch. But now, as he moves to 11th in the FedExCup, it is a serious goal of his to make it to East Lake. As is a desire to rejoin the International Team for the Presidents Cup. And of course, a big assault on the majors. Leishman is no stranger to contending at the big events. He led the Masters after the opening round in 2013 and played with eventual champion Adam Scott in the final round, contending hard until a water ball on the back nine left him to settle for T4. If not for a relatively short par putt missing late in the final round at St Andrews in 2015 he would have been an Open Championship winner – instead he entered a three-man playoff and hit his first tee shot into a divot, falling into a hole he couldn’t climb out of. Don’t be surprised to see him up high on big leaderboards from here on out.
5. Rory McIlroy might have petered out on the last hole with a three-putt bogey but his weekend charge, on the back of his performance at the World Golf Championships – Mexico Championship, show he’s building to something big. The FedExCup champion had to settle for a T4 finish this week despite going 10-under in the final two rounds but don’t be surprised to see him win the World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin this week. He’s the 2015 champion and was only knocked out last year by eventual winner Jason Day in the semifinals, the man he just leapfrogged back to world No.2. McIlroy is clearing the last bits of rust off his game at just the right time.
1. A whopping 92 percent of Leishman’s total strokes gained for the week came from his approach shot and putting performance where he ranked 10th and second respectively.
2. Leishman was tied for best in the field for greens in regulation hitting 53 of 72, marking the sixth winner of the last 11 to rank inside the top-10 for greens in regulation at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. This was the fourth time in his career where he has led the field for greens in regulation and the first time he led the field and went on to win.
3. Leishman’s 51’5” putt for eagle on the 16th hole marked his longest putt of the season and his 10th longest of his career on TOUR. His previous longest putt of the season came earlier in the week on his 3rd hole in the second round where he drained a 29’ 11” birdie putt. Leishman’s three longest putts of the season have come in his last seven rounds on TOUR and his two longest came within 50 holes of one another.
4. Leishman’s Strokes Gained: Putting performance marked the second-best performance of his career in this category. He had his best performance of the week in the final round where he made 140’ 10” of putts and was a perfect 15 of 15 from inside 10 feet. He ranks second this season in SG: Putting, a huge improvement over the last few seasons where he was 44th, 112th, 104th, T79th and 166th.
5. Leishman picked up his second victory in his 207th career start on the PGA TOUR moving from 60th to 11th in the FedExCup standings marking his highest position in the FedExCup this season. At 33 year’s old, Leishman becomes the third player to win in his 30’s this season (Brendan Steele & Dustin Johnson) and is the sixth international player to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He is the third Australian behind Rod Pampling and Jason Day.
TOP THREE VIDEOS
1. What do you do when you’re trailing by a shot with just three to play? This.
Shots of the Week
Marc Leishman's go-ahead eagle putt leads our Shots of the Week
2. Cody Gribble is not afraid of alligators… Smylie Kaufman… well you be the judge?
3. A sensational moment honoring Arnold Palmer pre-tournament.