Timing is everything, right? Marc Leishman proved the cliche true on Sunday at Bay Hill, picking up his second-career PGA Tour win in the process at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The Aussie trailed by a shot as he stood over a 50-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole of Mr. Palmer’s Orlando club, a putt he had seen earlier in the week and missed. This time, he made an adjustment to his read and struck it with enough speed to find the bottom of the cup for an unlikely 3. All of a sudden, Leishman went from down one to up one with two to play.
Leishman hit a great tee shot into the 215-yard 17th, but his ball rolled through and ended up in a bunker just beyond the green. He managed to getup-and-down for par. Then Leishman’s tee shot on 18 found deep rough right of the fairway, forcing Leishman to do the prudent thing — frankly, the antithesis of what Palmer would’ve done in his prime — and lay up to avoid the daunting water hazard on the 18th. The move proved genius, as Leishman managed to again save par and secure the title.
When the result was official, Leishman’s 5-year-old son, Harvey, said, “Let’s go get the trophy!” loud enough for TV mics to pick up the joyful cheer.
Leishman had previously broken through on the PGA Tour, taking the 2012 Travelers Championship, but this was the first time his family had been there to see him get that hardware. The Aussie, who missed out on a major title in the 2015 British Open playoff at St. Andrews, expressed some sadness that he was the first player to win this tournament and not get to shake Mr. Palmer’s hand at the end.
“Mr. Palmer was an awesome guy who I was lucky enough to meet a few times at this tournament,” said Leishman, whose final round of 3-under 69 brought him to an 11-under total. “To honor him is huge.”
Leishman, frankly, was probably the last guy of the final contenders that observers would have pegged to pull out the title. When Leishman made the eagle putt, he trailed Kisner, Hoffman and Rory McIlroy, who was emulating Palmer’s go-for-broke style all the way to a share of the lead. McIlroy put on an impressive driving display on Sunday, smashing a pair of drives over 370 yards. However, a three-putt bogey at the last left McIlroy in a tie for fourth place with Tyrrell Hatton.
“I made a run,” said McIlroy, who moved to No. 2 in the world rankings. “I had two good chances on the last two holes. I thought that, walking up to the last green, I saw Leishman had made eagle on 16 to go to 11 (under), so I definitely gave (the putt on 18) a run. That’s for sure. A bit too much of a run. But these things happen. I’m pleased with how (the round) went.”
So is Leishman, who now gets into the Masters with the win.
“It was a tough day,” he said, “and I’m just lucky that I played well and made the putts when I had to make them.”