20 Mar 2017
Leishman with his Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy.
Australia's Marc Leishman has broken his personal drought on the PGA Tour of the United States, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational event at Bay Hill in Florida.
A bombed 16-metre eagle putt at the par-five 16th hole was the catalyst for the Victoria's triumph, his first in America since the Travelers Championship in Connecticut in 2012.
The putt hit the back of the cup and vaulted him from a one-shot deficit to a one-shot lead over a group that included Rory McIlroy.
Leishman then played the calm professional over the last two holes. At the par-three 17th, his beautiful tee shot almost hit the flag but trickled into the back bunker, dreadfully unlucky. But he got up and down, making a two-metre nerve-tester to save par, and moved to the par-four 18th.
There he flared his tee shot wide into the right rough, leaving him no direct line to the flag, cut way right behind the pond that guards the green. The man from Warrnambool played safe, hit to the front fridge, then hit a pure chip to one-metre from the flag and rolled in the par putt for a 69, three-under, posting 11-under overall.
He was near-perfect down the stretch, making one-putts at each of the last four greens.
One the 18th green he was greeted by wife Audrey and his two sons. Based in Virginia, the Leishmans are expecting a third child soon.
By the time Kevin Kisner of the US failed to make birdie at the 18th, Leishman knew that he was the winner, his first tournament triumph since South Africa in 2015.
Leishman won by a shot from Kisner and Charley Hoffman, with McIlroy a further shot away.
The victory gets him a spot in the Masters at Augusta National next month. He had not previously qualified as his world ranking had slipped to No. 62, and he will now move into calculations for the Presidents Cup as well, describing it as "an unbelievable day'' for him.
"Around here things can change so quick,'' he said. "You don't have to hit that bad a shot to make bogeys. You've just got to stay right in it. I was able to do that, I holed some good putts on the last few holes, (and) they all went in the middle of the hole which is nice. I would've liked them a bit shorter, obviously, but it was a nice day. Obviously the putter was there with me all week.''
Leishman said his better driving this year had changed his luck. "I fell like all year it's been really close but I haven't played the way I wanted to on Sundays. Today was the day.''
The tournament at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill was the first since his death. "It's a special week,'' said Leishman. "Mr Palmer's an awesome guy I was lucky enough to meet a few times at this tournament. To honor him is huge. This is the first time I've won a tournament with my family here, too, and my caddie's family are here.''
And Leishman was able to at last put to rest the stream of questions he’s been getting from his youngest son, Harvey.
“He keeps reminding me that it’s been awhile since I won. He says, “Daddy, why don’t you ever win the trophy?” said Leishman, smiling.
“So, that’s nice to get that now, to go and get that trophy. So, I’m just so excited and so happy that, especially in a week honouring such a champion guy like Mr. Palmer.”
Greg Chalmers had a solid week finishing tied-17th, and Jason Day rallied on the final day to finish tied-23rd.