Red-hot putter ends Leishman’s PGA Tour drought

(Orlando, FL:) Marc Leishman has holed some important putts in this career but none more important than the 50-footer he drained for eagle to help secure victory in the special tribute Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in suburban Orlando.

It was if ‘The King’ was looking down on the 33-year old Leishman who came one shot behind three players – Kevin Kisner, Charley Hoffman and Rory McIlroy – after sinking the putt from well behind the flag at the par five, 16th to move one in front of the field with two holes to play.

Leishman then marvellously got up-and-down from 35-foot in a back bunker at the par three 17th ahead of playing a splendid third shot, a 35-foot wedge, to just three feet at the last for a virtual tap-in par in a round of 69 for an 11-under par tally.

Kisner and Hoffman signed for 73 whereas McIlroy, who was striding up the last when he heard the roar emanating from the 16th, played an aggressive birdie putt on the last only to send the ball by the hole and then miss his par putt in a round of 69 to settle for a share of fourth with England’s Tyrrell Hatton (71) in fourth place on 10-under par.

In capturing just his second PGA Tour victory the very proud Warnnambool-born golfer earned an invitation to next month’s Masters and no doubt has secured his place later this year in the International Presidents Cup team.

Marc Leishman Marc Leishman (Credit: PGA Tour)

“I’ve had quite a few chances to win this year,” he said.

“Going into Sundays I’ve been two, three, four back so it’s been disappointing to do that, but you really learn stuff when you don’t, when the outcome’s not what you wanted it. And I felt like I learned a lot from those earlier in the year. I’ve been playing well, it’s just a matter of putting four rounds together.”

“The more you get yourself into that situation, the better you get and luckily those experiences from earlier this year paid off and I was able to make the putts when I needed to and walk away with this trophy.”

“It’s very nice to be heading back to the Masters as it was certainly a goal of mine to – I knew that the cut off was after the Match Play and I only had two events left, so I needed to get it done or sit at home and watch the Masters, which is not fun if you’ve already been there and played there, because you know how cool it is to be there.”

Proudly waiting for him at the back of the 18th green was his wife, Audrey and sons Oliver and Harvey.

Of course, it was two years past at the 2015 Masters Leishman left Augusta National in the wee hours after getting an emergency call from his wife. His entire world was crashing down when she was barely clinging to life in a Virginia Beach hospital with toxic shock syndrome. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be back to plying his trade on the PGA Tour.

Golf, at least as Leishman knew it as a global professional golfer, was over if his wife didn’t beat the 5 percent odds of surviving.

“It was terrible, I mean, I was ready to give it away if Audrey had have passed away, I was going to be a dad and that was it,” he recalled.

“There was no other sort of — it didn’t cross my mind to keep playing golf. So, that first six months, just every time I was on the golf course I was just so happy to be on a golf course and be healthy and all that.”

“So, going through something like that. It’s been — I think the hardest part for me and the boys was that right around the time where it happened, that month I would say. That was the hardest part for us.”

“But I feel like for Audrey it was the recovery, the year or year and a half after. So we sort of had, when she was in the hospital was when I was really struggling. And when she got out is when she had her problems.”

“It’s been a wild ride and it certainly makes, it makes golf…less important. It’s not life and death. We have been in that situation and it’s not fun.”

“It does certainly make you appreciate the good times a lot more and appreciate just everything, your kids and your family and just having people around. It’s just great to be able to share this with someone. If it was just me, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun, if they weren’t with me.”

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.”

It is Leishman’s first PGA Tour win since capturing his maiden title at the 2012 Travellers Championship while he finished tied for the lead at the 2015 Open Championship only to lose out in a play-off at St. Andrews.

Leishman’s win also made it back-to-back Aussie success at the Arnold Palmer after Jason Day won the event last year and he also joins Queenslander Rod Pampling (2006) as the only Australians to lift the gleaming trophy that was first handed out in 1966.

And after arriving at Bay Hill not being exempt into the Masters, the Victorian has jumped 30 spots to be the new World No. 32 ensuring he qualifies for his fifth Masters now in two categories.