Closing 62 propels Leishman to surprising first victorytext sizeJune 24, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Even Marc Leishman was surprised.
"I don't know where to start, really," he said.
Fortunately for him, he knew how to finish. The same couldn't be said for the rest of the contenders Sunday at the Travelers Championship, where another first-time champion was crowned.
It was the fifth time in the last seven years someone's inaugural victory came here, but how it did was as much a story as why.
Leishman shot an impressive final-round 62 at TPC River Highlands, then won from the only place that seemed safe: The clubhouse.
The Aussie finished his round 2 hours, 22 minutes before the final putt dropped Sunday night. When it did, his name was the only one atop the leaderboard.
"Waiting around is really hard," said Leishman, who moved to 23rd in the FedExCup standings with the win. "It didn't look like I had much of a chance."
That's because by the time Leishman, who played his final six holes in 3 under, was done talking to the media after his round, he'd already lost his lead to Charley Hoffman.
"I mean I have a chance," Leishman said after his round. "You've always got a chance, you know. I'll be watching pretty closely, but I don't need to be anxious. I probably think I'm one or two short and that's the attitude I'm going to have. But I'm also not going to go anywhere."
It's a good thing he didn't.
While Leishman was busy watching soccer and eating lunch, others were busy losing theirs over the final four holes at TPC River Highlands -- most notably Hoffman, who led by as many as three Sunday.
Updated standings Marc Leishman moved to No. 23 in the FedExCup standings with his breakthrough victory at TPC River Highlands. Standings
The cool Californian's game went from hot -- he played his first 13 holes in 7 under -- to ice cold with a tee shot into the water for a double bogey on No. 17 that was followed by a definitively crushing bogey on 18 to finish at an unlucky 13 under and one shot back of Leishman.
"Where that pin was (on 17) it was a tough chip from the back," said Hoffman, who took and drop and hit his approach over the green. "I can live with that. What I did on 18 was pretty pathetic."
It was just as ugly as you went down the leaderboard.
Bubba Watson, who won here in a playoff two years ago, missed out on one this year when he rinsed his tee shot at the reachable par-4 15th.
"If you go back to my history of me playing this golf tournament, I've always hit it in that water," said Watson, whose birdie putt on the last to tie the lead slid by the hole.
History has a funny way of repeating itself -- Leishman was the fifth player to come from at least six shots back in the final round this season.
Tim Clark had his chances, too.
He got to 13 under with birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 but gave one of those back with a hard-to-swallow bogey on the 17th, where he missed a 2-foot putt for par.
"That's like taking a bullet to the head," Clark said. "I pretty much knew I was going to miss it, to be honest with you. You put yourself in position like this to win a tournament and to finish like that, having not missed a shot all day really. I mean I played great. I feel like I could have walked away with a win."
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John Rollins might have, too.
He eagled the par-5 13th, only to give both shots back with bogeys on each of the next two holes.
Davis was stuck on par most of the day, though he did get as low as 13 under before being done in by a couple of bogeys on the back nine.
Thatcher's problems weren't at the end of the tournament as much as the beginning of the final round.
He bogeyed three of his first six holes and looked dead and buried.
However, Thatcher eagled No. 13 to get back into it. He dropped a shot with a bogey on the next hole but was one of just 10 players to birdie No. 17, which put him within a stroke of Leishman.
Then he buried his approach and his chances in a greenside bunker on 18.
"You take any tournament that you win, they're so hard to win," Leishman said. "People say that they don't know how they feel, you know, excited, all that. But I really don't know how I feel. It's going to take a while to sink in."
That's OK, Leishman probably won't mind waiting.