Leishman finally tames Torrey Pines for Farmers Insurance Open winBefore Sunday, Marc Leishman had five top-10s, including two runners-up, at Torrey Pines
January 26, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Marc Leishman news conference after winning Farmers
SAN DIEGO – It was a pretty good Australia Day for Marc Leishman.
The affable Australian took his PGA TOUR win tally to an impressive five after producing a stellar Sunday at Torrey Pines, claiming the Farmers Insurance Open by a shot. It came on his home nations national day at a course that reminds him of home.
The Torrey pine tree the course takes its name from are not the only ones adorning the precinct. Multiple eucalyptus trees, natives of Australia, dot the course and the fairways and greens use grass seen everywhere down under.
It is why Leishman has always felt at home at Torrey. Why he believed he could win at the course from his first trip as a wide-eyed teenager on his first journey outside his country in 2001.
On Sunday, after more than a decade of trying and two runner up finishes, the former PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year finally connected for the win. And it was an impressive one for sure. His 7-under 65 matched the low final round by a Farmers Insurance Open champion since Torrey Pines underwent its first U.S. Open renovation in 2001.
He led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting for the week, gaining +8.031 strokes, +4.778 of which came Sunday as he made 151 feet, four inches worth or putts. His caddie Matty Kelly, who has been with Leishman his entire TOUR career and grew up in the same small town, called it the best putting performance of his career.
“As good as it gets on the greens,” Kelly said. “He was rolling early and then he just got so determined and honestly I just tried to get out of his way. It was like he was pitching a no-hitter in baseball. You don’t say anything, you just let it happen.”
Leishman needed every bit of it as his driving – which had been stellar for three rounds – deserted him. On Sunday he was 70th in the field for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee losing -1.235 to the field.
“A bit of extra practice early in the week on the putting green. Kind of had a good feeling, but you never know what your week's going to be like. I grew up on this grass, I grew up on kikuyu fairways, poa greens,” Leishman said.
“I saw that the guys out front didn't get off to the best start and then that really got my determination up. I've led here early in the last round maybe once or twice and let it slip. I was very determined to not let that happen again.”
Marc Leishman's Round 4 highlights from Farmers
Starting four shots off the lead held by Jon Rahm, a previous Farmers Insurance Open winner and one of the men to previously finish with a 65 to win, made things seem tough enough. Ryan Palmer was three ahead and FedExCup Champion Rory McIlroy also started ahead of the Australian. Tiger Woods, an eight time winner at Torrey Pines was a shot behind.
But Leishman made his intentions clear early with birdies on three of his opening four holes. The par he made included a miss for birdie from four feet. Almost immediately he had the lead and from there he would charge on. At one point his lead was as many as four strokes but Rahm, who had stumbled early, roared back.
In his last six holes the Spaniard would make an eagle and four birdies, but a costly bogey on the 15th hole would ultimately prove costly. He came to the par-5 18th needing an eagle to tie after Leishman made a clutch birdie before him.
He had a chance from 53 feet, similar to the putt he made in 2017 on the way to victory, but it pulled up a foot short. Afterwards Rahm said he didn’t look at a leaderboard and thought birdie would have been enough to tie. He had failed to see Leishman’s birdie posted.
“I saw Adam Scott finish with four straight birdies to give Justin Rose a run last year. I finished with a birdie and eagle to win by three, so I knew it was possible. I hit the shots I needed to,” Rahm said.
“What people probably don't know is that on 18, after I made that putt on 17, I never looked at the scoreboard, so as far as I was concerned I was one back. So with a birdie, I was going to be in a playoff.
“The putt, that's a tough putt … So I did hit it with trying to make it with perfect speed thinking a two‑putt would get into a playoff … but even if I hit the right speed, that putt doesn't go in, it was left of the hole the whole way, so it doesn't matter. Still, it's just a sour feeling.”
Leishman was hitting balls on the nearby first hole on a makeshift range set up by TOUR officials in case extra holes were needed. When Rahm’s putt pulled up short he jumped on the phone to his wife and kids who were back in their Virginia Beach base while hugging his team.
His oldest son, eight-year-old Harvey, is fast becoming golf obsessed. He was riding the telecast all evening and after congratulating his dad on some epic par saves was quick to critique his driving. But even Harvey knows five TOUR wins is very note-worthy.
“My first few years on the TOUR, you're just hoping to keep your card, just have a job. Once you get that first one … it kind of validates it if you can get two and then you can get more,” Leishman said.
“I didn't really ever imagine I would be a five‑time TOUR winner, to be honest. As a kid you don't expect this. You dream to be on the PGA TOUR one day and all of a sudden to have five victories, it's a great feeling.
“So I feel lucky. This is a pretty sweet victory just because I've come close here a few times. From my first year on TOUR I felt like this is a place I could win at and then to finally do it my 12th year on TOUR is really satisfying.”
Marc Leishman wins Farmers Insurance Open
After Australia failed to produce a TOUR win in the 2019 calendar year they now have two in the first four weeks of 2020 with Cameron Smith also winning the Sony Open in Hawaii. Both players had pledged significant funds to Australian bushfire relief efforts prior to their wins and hoped the victories brought a little bit of happiness to a country in crisis.
Both were important members of the International Presidents Cup team last December also and the good friends vowed to each other they would win this season. They’ve done it inside the first month of 2020 and are already planning their trip to the 2021 Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui.
They also have Olympic dreams. Four years ago Leishman had to pass up a spot at Rio on doctors’ advice. His wife Audrey was still overcoming a near fatal bout of sepsis and Leishman couldn’t risk contracting anything to put her immune system at risk.
“Seeing Cam Smith win a couple weeks ago, that gave me a bit of determination,” Leishman admitted. “The goal was to win. Now we’ve done that the goals need to change.
“I’ll hope to do it again and contend in the big events like THE PLAYERS and the majors. And I have Olympic aspirations. I would love to be there in Tokyo … it is a priority for me. I would love to represent my country and hopefully win a medal for my country. My game is in a good spot right now and I hope to take advantage.”
If he produces more efforts like Sunday at Torrey there’s a big chance he will.