Australian Marc Leishman fired an eight-under-par, bogey-free 62 on Sunday to win the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT for his first-career PGA TOUR victory. Leishman began the day T20 and six shots behind 54-hole leaders Roland Thatcher and Brian Davis. Leishman’s 14-under 266 was one shot better than 2010 Travelers champion Bubba Watson and two-time PGA TOUR winner Charley Hoffman. Thatcher’s dream for his first TOUR win ended on 18, when needing birdie, he found the greenside bunker. His subsequent bogey saw him finish T4 along with Davis, Tim Clark and John Rollins. Leishman knew a low number was available on Sunday after seeing Hunter Mahan post nine-under 61 earlier in the day. His round got off to a great starts as he went out in five-under 30. Known as an excellent wind player, the 2009 PGA Rookie of the Year kept his breath and made three more birdies coming in for a back-nine 32, totaling 62 for the round. He thought his chances of winning his first event were slim and none when Charley Hoffman stood on the 17th tee at 16-under par. After Hoffman made double-bogey on 17 and bogey on 18, Leishman headed to the range to sharpen his game and stay loose just in case there was a play-off. After Thatcher’s bunker shot on 18 didn’t drop, there wouldn't be one and Leishman joins his hero, Greg Norman, as the only Australians to win the Travelers Championship.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Gamers, this is the second year in a row that a foreign-born player has won the Travelers Championship. This is only the second time in history that non-Americans have gone back-to-back following Nick Price (1993), David Frost (1994) and Norman (1995). This is also the fifth champion in seven events to make the Travelers Championship his maiden TOUR victory.
The last 17 of 26 players who held the 54-hole lead have NOT gone on to win as Brian Davis and Roland Thatcher both finished T4. Both players were also looking for their first-career victories on TOUR.
Leishman breaks up the “Party in the U.S.A” as he becomes only the third player from outside the U.S.A. to win since February. Luke Donald (Transitions Championship) and Carl Pettersson (RBC Heritage) make it three international victors in the last 14 TOUR events.
Leishman (29) joins Webb Simpson (26) and Dustin Johnson (28 on June 22nd) as the third-consecutive twenty-something to win on TOUR.
With this victory, Marc Leishman collects $1,080,000 and 500 FedExCup points. He moves from No. 81 up to No. 23 in the FedExCup standings behind leader Jason Dufner.
Young Guns versus Middle Guns versus Old Guns
In 27 events on TOUR in 2012, the “Young” folks have now won three tournaments in a row to take the season-long lead over the “Middle” guys and the “Old” dudes, 13-12-2. I’m not very good at maths so I’ll keep track for you!
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26) and now Marc Leishman (29) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods TWICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35) and Zach Johnson (36).
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012.
Bubba Watson: After a ho-hum Thursday and Friday, Watson got over his U.S. Open blues and started playing #bubbagolf again as he fired a pair of 65’s to finish T2 this week. I was unsure of what “mood” Watson was going to bring to a place where he won his first TOUR event and dedicated it to his dying father. That’s a big memory in his life and he honored his father this week with another superb finish in 2012. Watson, as long as he isn’t playing Olympic Club or Murfield Village, has been nothing short of awesome this season as his worst finish, when making the cut, is T18. He’s played 12 events. Do the math: that IS awesome!
Charley Hoffman: Ouch. That’s the first and only word that comes to mind for poor (in luck, not in the T2 check he picked up) Hoffman after Sunday. He stood on 17 tee with a two shot lead. He signed his scorecard 20 minutes later one shot behind Leishman. Hoffman’s tee shot found the water on 17 leading to double-bogey. His approach on 18 found the beach and he couldn’t get up-and-down to tie Leishman. Hoffman had never finished better than T27 in three attempts here. His T2 is his best finish of 2012 and is his best on TOUR since the 2011 VTO where he was also T2. It’s only his second top 10 of 2012 (T8 RBC). He was only one of six players to post all four rounds in the 60’s this week.
Tim Clark: It looks like Tim Clark is finally healthy and his game is reflecting it. His T4 was his best finish since his T2 at Sony in 2011. His elbow is repaired and now it looks like he’s knocked the rough off as well. In his last five events Clark has hit the top 25 three times including Sunday. Clark only made five bogeys on the week but the one on 17 from three feet will probably sting a bit in the morning. Better than having his elbow sting! The 2010 PLAYERS champion could be an excellent end-of-season addition if he continues to play this consistently.
John Rollins: Welcome back to the Sunday column! After hitting the top 10 in three of the first four events of 2012, Rollins’ only other appearance in here was T7 (Zurich Classic) in late April. Gamers, take note though: In the 10 cuts Rollins has made (17 total events), he’s hit the top 25 nine times and five of those are in the top 10. He was 13 in strokes gained-putting and T4 GIR. That’s a lethal combo! Rollins was T2 here in 2011 so he now has entered the “horse for course” at TPC River Highlands. Mental note made.
Brian Davis: I remember when people were proclaiming that Davis would win soon after calling a penalty on himself at the RBC Heritage in 2010 because the golf gods would reward him for his honesty. I guess the golf gods didn’t get the message. As I have remarked on Twitter before, the only things in life that are “due” are pregnant women and your Federal Income Taxes. Well, at least for most of you…Anyhow, it just shows how freakin’ hard it is to win on TOUR and Davis’ drought continues. He didn’t help himself either with two double-bogeys on the week. But, for fantasy gamers, remember that he’s now hit the top 10 four times this season. His T4 this week backs up his T25 last time out at the Memorial. He now has back-to-back top 10 finishes at TPC River Highlands (T9, 2011). That’s two mental notes in two players!
Roland Thatcher: I heard on the telecast that Thatcher missed the top 125 (full exemption) last year by $1,700 or so. Wow. That’s like one shot in a week where you make the cut. The one shot he would like to have back this week was his final iron shot of the day from 18 fairway. After making a gutty birdie on 17 to get within one of the lead, Thatcher was forced to go pin-hunting on 18 and came up short. His bunker shot left him 20 feet for par and T2 but his putt came up just short. The difference, which I know would change if more guys tied for second, I get it, between T4 and T2 was around $300,000. That’s real money. That’s why you can feel for Thatcher this week. This is his first top 10 since T5 at Transitions in 2011. He MC the previous five outings on TOUR and his previous two outings at the Travelers. Raise your hand if you had Thatcher this week. Keep your hand up if you are lying.
Brendon de Jonge: Make that 10 consecutive cuts (shhhhhhh!) for the man from Zimbabwe but his first top 10 since his season-opening event at Sony back in January. His T8 was done in an unconventional way for de Jonge: he did it with a big round on Sunday. Johnny Mac texted me during the first tournament of the year and told me, because I had de Jonge in roto that week, that I had no chance because of his 2011 final-round scoring average (133th). Johnny Mac, as usual, was spot on. As 2012 rolls on and de Jonge keeps putting himself in position, he’s learning how to deal with the weekends. His final round scoring average is currently 77th and that will improve after his 66 Sunday. He’s a solid, cut-making machine in 2012 and is definitely worth a look in deep drafts and lesser-profile events.
Fredrik Jacobson: “The Junkman” made a spirited defense of his 2011 championship but fell just short as he finished T8. Any question of U.S. Open hangover was quickly shot down as he opened with the 36-hole lead. He might have run out of gas on the weekend when he could only muster two-under for both days. If you’re keeping score in the column, that’s Watson, Rollins, Davis and now Jacobson who have to be on your “automatic selections” for the Travelers in 2013 as “horses for courses”. Don’t worry, I’ll remember for you. That’s why you read, right? Right! Oh, and Jacobson has made 11 of 12 cuts in 2012 so you might want to put him on your list for THIS year as well.
Matt Kuchar: That’s 21 consecutive cuts-made for THE PLAYERS champion with his T8 finish this week. It’s Kuchar’s best finish since his victory at THE PLAYERS (four events) and his first top 10. Even when Kuchar is “off” he’s still rolling. He was T28 GIR and 17th in strokes gained-putting. Those numbers aren’t spectacular, just steady, just like Kuchar. He made a nice birdie on the 72nd hole to jump into the top 10. This was Kuchar’s first start here since 2008 and he still bangs out a top 10. The only four times in 2012 he hasn’t hit the top 25 (14 starts) he’s finished T26, T27, T33 and T44. Cha-ching!
“Hey, whatever happened to…”
Hunter Mahan: Closed with a tournament-best 61 to vault up the leaderboard 57 places on Sunday to finish T11. Talk about back-door cover! He began the day one under par after firing 70-69-70 after 54 holes. Mahan loves this course and he rewarded the fantasy players again this year. He made 11 birdies Thursday through Saturday and nine Sunday. The tournament was a synopsis of Mahan as he led the field in driving accuracy and GIR but was middle of the pack in putting even after his bogey-free round today. When he gets it going, he gets it going! This is Mahan’s best finish (seven tournaments) since his victory at SHO.
Padraig Harrington: My second choice, behind Matt Kuchar, heading into the week at TPC River Highlands, Harrington made a gutty par save on 18 to finish T11 after tweaking his wrist earlier in the week. He claimed he was fine and it looked to be the case after his 65 on Saturday to jump into the third-to-last group on Sunday. He didn’t fire on Sunday but his game look like it’s heading towards a peak at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s. He had solid ball-striking and putting numbers for the week so he’s not doing it with smoke and mirrors.
Webb Simpson: The 2012 U.S. Open champion showed, not surprisingly, real class by honoring his commitment this week at the Travelers. He could have cited “mental fatigue” after playing four rounds at Olympic Club last week and nobody would have blinked an eye. He didn’t. He showed up, competed and played all four rounds. No WD. No excuses. His T29 finish was due to the fact that his putter was as cold as summer in San Francisco because he was T10 GIR. Next up for Simpson is waiting on the birth of his next child, not the Open Championship. Like Watson, he seems to be at peace with his faith and golf game. Good for him!
Zach Johnson: After his second (RBC), T69 (WFC), T2 (THE PLAYERS) and WIN (CPIC) streak, Johnson, unsurprisingly, has come back down to planet Earth with the rest of us. After MC at FESJC and T41 at the U.S. Open, Johnson played two of four rounds over par this week to finish T64. He made four doubles and a triple which doesn’t help anything. We’ll see how he bounces back at the Steve Stricker Open, er, I mean the John Deere Classic. Stay tuned.