Marc Leishman celebrates at the King's house after winning at Bayhill
Orlando, Florida - It was a bittersweet week at Bayhill, the first ever Arnold
Palmer Invitational without America's Golf Hero was conducted and came
off just as The King would have wanted. This was perhaps the one week on
the PGA Tour schedule this season where who won was far less important
than the message of "A Life Well Played" by Golf's most beloved icon.
Tributes were everywhere (and in Bruno's Blog later this week we'll dedicate
our latest edition with images from the week at the Arnie's Bayhill Resort)
and rightly so. From the new 13 ft (1390 lb) statue that now sits behind
the first tee, to the thousands of patrons who wore Arnie's Army attire,
it was a complete celebration of the man that we all admired - not because
of his golf accomplishments, but with the way that he touched so many
through his caring and generosity of his time. Kindness was in the air all
week at Bayhill with Mr.Palmer's presence being felt throughout the grounds.
As far as the golf, it was exciting as it usually is on Arnie's course, which
was in by far the best shape that we've seen it in the 10 years or so that
we've been around Bayhill. On the back nine Sunday it looked like Kevin
Kisner might walk away with the title, but Charley Hoffman, Rory McIlroy
and Adam Hadwin all were challenging. Aussie Marc Leishman's name was
never really in the conversation, but just as Kisner started to falter Leishman
holed a 51 ft bomb on the par 5 sixteenth to take the lead at 11 under par.
As Kisner and Hoffman continued to struggle, McIlroy looked like he could
post a number to create some more late pressure on the leaders. After
making a brilliant up and down on the sixteenth for birdie, Rory missed his
attempt for another on the par 3 seventeenth, then 3 putted from 20 feet at
the last to end any hopes for victory. Leishman made a fantastic up and down
from short of the green on the 72nd hole to finish off a final round 69 (-11 total)
and close out the bumbling final group of Kisner and Hoffman (both shot 73
on Sunday) to take home Arnie's classic red cardigan sweater (that now replaces
the navy blazer that the champion used to wear in the past).
After a severe respiratory and toxic shock illness nearly took the life of Marc's
wife Audrey back in 2015, the family is healthy and together this week in Orlando,
and that wasn't lost on Marc after winning Sunday: "There's a lot of reasons that I
wanted to play good," Leishman said. "My family is here, it's just a special day and
couldn't have worked out better."
On his play Sunday, "Around here things can change so quick. You don't have to
hit that bad of a shot to make bogeys out there . . . I holed some putts there on
the last few holes. They all went in the middle of the hole, which was nice.
Obviously the putter was there with me all week."
The win was the second PGA Tour title for Leishman (In 2012 he won the
Travelers), he now has a 3 year exemption, and entry to the Masters in two
weeks. For the week, Leishman was 2nd in strokes gained putting and made
140 ft of putts Sunday.