Aussie Marc Leishman delivered the goods on Sunday afternoon, including an eagle in the closing holes that would have impressed the host in previous years.
Australian Marc Leishman posted a final round 69 that included a late eagle to come from behind and win the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. His final total of 11-under-par 277 was one shot better than Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman, who shared second. The European duo of Rory McIlroy and Tyrrell Hatton rounded off the podium on nine-under-par.
- None bigger than rolling in that eagle on No. 15 from just short of 52 feet. It was his longest putt on Tour this year by 20 feet!
- His final round of 69 when the big money was on the table and the wind was howling was only bested by five other players.
- On 17, the final par three, his tee shot almost went in but ended up in the bunker on the short side instead. His excellent bunker shot left him almost seven feet for par but he held his nerve and holed the putt.
- On 18, he missed the fairway right into the cabbage salad. His decent lie could have tempted him to carry the water into the final green but instead he played short of the green without bringing the water into play. His pitch to three feet and subsequent par make set the number that nobody matched! #WhatNerves?
- He only made 16 birdies (T-14) and an eagle.
- His seven bogeys (T-3) included only four in the final three rounds and he didn’t take anything worse.
- He played the weekend in four-under-par and erased a three-shot-deficit on Sunday.
- Racked up 53 of 72 GIR (T-1) while only finding 41 of 56 fairways (T-17).
- He co-led the field in GIR and was T-2 SGP. Good combo!
Past history at API:
- He’s played the previous seven editions with T-3 in 2011 the best of the lot.
- Of his last 24 rounds at Bay Hill, 14 are in red figures.
- Of his last 12 rounds at Bay Hill, 10 are in red figures as he’s “figured” it out here.
- He’s now made the weekend six times from eight tries.
- He posts his 12th top 25 since last May.
- Of his last seven starts he’s finished T-27 or better with just one MC.
- First top 10 and top 20 since CIMB last fall.
- Notorious wind player who has proven in the past he can thrive in these conditions (see below).
- Only other Tour win was firing a final round 62 to win the 2011 Travelers.
- Last year was the first year in four where he hasn’t finished in the top five in a major (!?!?!?!).
- He posted T-4 at the 2013 Masters for his only weekend in four trips.
- He posted T-5 at Royal Liverpool in 2014 and was the third wheel in the Jordan Spieth/Zach Johnson playoff at The Old Course the following year.
- His T-18 at Oakmont last year was his best in five tries.
- The previous four years on Tour he’s been in the top 50 in scoring.
- Since 2010, he’s never finished worse than No. 87 in FEC points.
- At 34 with kid No.3 on the way, he should be more than at peace and that stability should keep him rolling along.
- His two top 10’s in eight events this season matches his total from last season from 25 attempts.
With this win:
- Collects $1,566,000.
- 500 FEC points.
- Receives a THREE-year exemption on Tour.
- Checks in at No. 32, up from No. 62 in the OWGR.
- Now ranked 11th in the FedExCup standings.
Trends and stats from the week for next week and next year
- Jason Day’s bid to join the club of those who have defend at Arnie’s place fell short as he finished T-23.
- Leishman joined an exclusive club of just five other internationals who have won in 39 events at Bay Hill.
- His 11-under-par 277 is the highest winning score in six years T-second highest since reverting to par 72 in 2010.
- Low round of the week was 65 on Saturday by Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.
- Low round of the week for Leishman was 66 on Friday.
- The low rounds on Thursday and Sunday were just 67.
- Adam Scott’s 62 will stand another year.
- Of the four rounds, no single round had more than three players bogey-free.
- There were only nine, bogey-free rounds for the week and only two on Sunday (Grillo, D. Lee).
The pros told us in their interviews this week that the rough was thick both off the fairways and off the greens and those who avoided it the most would be successful.
Florida also didn’t have any March rain to speak about before the event so firm and fast was in the cards, especially approaching the green.
The players couldn’t stop talking about what fantastic shape the course was in and the greens were in perfect condition.
As usual with weather in Florida, the wind played a part and this week on Thursday and Friday, so did the morning temperature. Tee off temp on Thursday was 41! Layers and cold hands don’t make the golf ball go as far!
A look inside the rest of the top 10.
Kevin Kisner (T-2): I have one of these about every six months where I just completely whiff. Nobody in their right mind should have left Kisner out as he entered the week with four top 25’s from five starts, no MC and three T-11 or better. Nobody should leave him out on his beloved Bermuda either.
He’ll cause a bit of bother in Match Play based on this form.
Charley Hoffman (T-2): He added this late to his schedule along with Valspar after not qualifying for WGC-Mexico Championship. It turned out to be a good idea. Hoffman, known for his successes on the West Coast and Texas suggests that Bermuda isn’t his cup of tea. He co-led the field with McIlroy with 21 birds so he’s figured something out. Before this week, eight of his 10 rounds at this event were par or worse! His MC at Valspar didn’t inspire after his T-4 at Riviera. His last five results will drive gamers crazy as he’s posted T-24, MC, T-4, MC and T-2. His best two in that stretch are on courses where he’s struggled previously.
Fantasy golf, eh?
Rory McIlroy (T-4): Along with Tommy Fleetwood he played the final three rounds in 12-under after a tough opening round. McIlroy’s 74 gave him a chance to chase down the leaders, which he did on Sunday. Sadly, his only three-putt of the week was on the final hole that cost him T-2 money. His 21 birdies co-led the field and so did his SG: Tee-to-Green, Driving Distance and Longest Drive. He hit too many GIR (T-3) to gain any strokes but was T-3 in PPGIR. He’s really close and will be my favorite at WGC-Dell Match Play as his best is THE best on Tour.
Tyrrell Hatton (T-4): He sat sixth in my preview and that wasn’t high enough! He’s now posted four top 10’s in a row including three on courses he’s never played before. His points earned gives him Special Temporary Membership which means he’s on Tour for the rest of the season. He won’t be in the FEC unless he picks up a win and based on what I’ve seen that might not be out of the question. It’s now 11 consecutive events of T-25 or better for the young Englishman.
Adam Hadwin (6th): There is nothing better for gamers who decided to pile on the winner from last week and he comes good. The Canadian backed up his first win with another top 10 before he skips this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play to get married. Fantasy owners who added him to long-term rosters as well should be encouraged that he’s not satisfied. He led the field in fairways, SG: Off-the-tee and bogeys with just five. He added 50 GIR (T-6) so it’s just not that excellent short game. Gamers are suggesting he hurries up and get married so he can get back on Tour!
Emiliano Grillo (T-7): It was only a matter of time before he returned to the top 10 and it was even more impressive doing it with a NOYNE on his card on the weekend. Grillo pitched two in the drink Saturday on No. 6 and then fired in the club into the same lake after finally finding dry land. Sunday he posted one of the bogey-free rounds with 68 and jumped 12 spots into to the top 10. It was his first finish inside T-33 in six events and the whole bag was working.
Lucas Glover (T-7): He’s been in my preview column almost weekly and deservedly so. His third top 10 in his ninth consecutive start where he’s played the weekend makes for an easy spot. Similarly to Kisner he loves this part of the country evidenced by his Florida finishes of T-21, T-18 and T-7. His lack of success at the Golf Club of Houston will test gamers his next time out.
Francesco Molinari (T-7): T-20 or better in 10 of his last 11 worldwide and now nothing worse than T-17 in his last four, including three top 10’s, at Bay Hill. Sometimes it’s so obvious it’s obvious!
Tommy Fleetwood (T-10): If you had any questions about this guy’s guts or commitment, they were answered this week. When Henrik Stenson was taking a dump on fantasy rosters around the world, Fleetwood bounced back from 78 on Thursday with 66 on Friday to comfortably make the cut on a course he’s never seen before. It’s even stronger considering these facts: He was second last week and already pocketed enough points for STM. He could have headed to Austin early for practice in an event where he lost in the quarterfinals last year. He stayed and fired 12-under-par the final three rounds to add another big finish. The two young Englishmen above need attention.
Hudson Swafford (T-10): His signs of life at Valspar translated on a course where he’s recently found success. He entered the week with seven consecutive rounds at Bay Hill at par or better. His big 69-68 finish moved him up on the weekend to the top 10 and that included a bogey on the final hole. His power and ability to torch par fives came through again this week. This was a nice reward for gamers who sat through three MC’s and a T-38 after adding him after his first win.
Players outside the top 10 who have caught my eyes in a positive way.
Billy Horschel (T-13): His 67 on Saturday was excellent but it was the only round under par for the week so I’m not sold on him in Florida. He made a ton of pars and avoided bogeys but only 12 birdies. He’ll make a lovely dark horse at Erin Hills.
Justin Rose (T-13): His closing bogey knocked him out of the top 10 but his mastery of Bay Hill continues. In the last six years T-15 is his worst finish in five weekends played.
Danny Lee (T-17): Back-to-back top 25’s in Florida followed a streak of blah. His 67 was the low round on Sunday.
Pat Perez (T-17): His 15th API resulted in his 12th check. He hasn’t MC on Tour in his last 11.
Jamie Lovemark (T-23): He backed up all four rounds 71 or better last year with three more at par or better this year. He torched the par fives the last two week and finished T-27 and T-23.
Bubba Watson (T-34): Just his third round in the 60’s in 2017 so it’s not time to start buying pink golf balls just yet.
“Whatever happened to…?”
Rory McIlroy (T-4): See above.
Henrik Stenson (MC): This video sums it up his week.
Jason Day (T-23): His last month consists of T-64 at Riviera, a double ear infection WD at Mexico City and four more rounds of 70 and higher at Bay Hill. He’ll defend this week in Austin where he won last year with a bad back. Sigh.
Rickie Fowler (12th): I’m not going anywhere especially with his 65 on Saturday. No Match Play for him this week should get him some time for extra prep for Augusta.
Hideki Matsuyama (T-45): Entered Sunday inside the top 25 and exited Sunday with 76 and T-45. His putter was ice cold and he barely finished in the top half in fairways and greens. Bad combo.
Justin Rose (T-13): See above.
Paul Casey (T-41): He pulled a “Matsuyama” on Sunday and shot 78 to drop from T-10 to T-41. He killed Yahoo! players and everything in his path.
Francesco Molinari (T-7): See above.
Brandt Snedeker (T-28):
Tommy Fleetwood (T-10): See above.
Adam Hadwin (T-6): See above.
Zach Johnson (T-66): The absolute worst week for Yahoo! gamers to have him rack up his worst finish in 13 made cuts. Those of you who went with Hatton won’t care! He also broke a streak of eight rounds in a row in red figures opening with 75.
Wesley Bryan (69th): Nothing lasts forever including putters who stripe it tee-to-green and rookies landing in the top 10. It was some run though! His 70-71 after opening with 77 was an impressive bounce back. His 77 to close sealed his fate.
Thomas Pieters (MC): He’s been a bit rough to time as he’s interspersed big finishes with MC’s. Justin Thomas-esque minus the wins! Hang on tight!
Keep up @MikeGlasscott and mikeglasscott.com for more details. Tomorrow, I’ll preview the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Wednesday I’ll post my gaming column.