Arnold Palmer Invitational
World No. 62 Marc Leishman erased a 3-shot deficit with 3-under-par 35-34=69 in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational to reach 11-under 277, up two places on the day and good for a 1-shot win over 54-hole co-leaders Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman, who both shot 73s.
The 33-year-old claims his second PGA TOUR title in 207 career starts, joining the 2012 Travelers Championship (111 starts ago), where he came from six back with 8-under 62 to win by one, also over Hoffman (and Bubba Watson).
After opening in 71-66-71, he began in a three-way T3. Playing out of the penultimate twosome, the Aussie conjured eight (of 14) fairways and 11 greens in regulation, losing 0.487 strokes approaching-the-green but gaining 4.202 on the greens.
He went out in 1-under, outpacing a 1-putt bogey-5 at three with birdie-4s at four and six (from 13’11”), trailing Kisner now by three. He circled the par-4 10th (14’10”), gave it back with bogey-5 at 11, and then drove a stake in the heart of the aspiring winners with a 51’5” putt for eagle at the par-5 16th, snatching a 1-shot lead over Kisner.
The Virginia Beach, Virginia, resident secured the trophy with a pair of up-and-down pars at 17 and 18, the former a 6’6” par-saver to convert a sand save, the latter from 3’2” after pitching from 45 yards short of the target.
This is the second straight week that a pre-tourney 80/1 outright has won (Adam Hadwin, Valspar), and the fourth consecutive week where the winner has taken at least one week off prior:
Leishman: Two weeks off prior; last start: T27, Honda (67-70-68-73)
Adam Hadwin (Valspar): Two weeks off prior
Dustin Johnson (WGC-Mexico): One week off
Rickie Fowler (Honda): Two weeks off
Leishman deposits $1,566,000 – an increase of $432,000 over Jason Day’s take last year – earns a 3-year exemption on TOUR (versus the typical two years); and invites to the 2017 Masters, PGA Championship and WGC-Bridgestone.
This was his eighth straight visit to Bay Hill. In his previous seven, he missed two cuts (2015/2013) and had two tops 25s, one top 10 (T3/2011).
The win comes in Leishman’s eighth start of the season, is a sixth top 25 and second top 10, brushing aside a previous-best solo 5th at the no-cut CIMB Classic back in October – his first start of 2016-17.
This was the 52nd playing of the API, 39th consecutive at the 7,419-yard par-72 (36-36) Bay Hill Club and Lodge, and second since installing TifEagle Bermuda on the greens.
Cumulative Scoring Average:
R1: 73.708*; R2: 72.568; R3: 71.833; R4: 73.111*
Rounds 1, 4 and Total were the highest scoring averages of the season.
Leishman posted rounds of 71-66-71-69 for 14.221 SG: Total.
Only TWO players broke par in ALL four rounds: Leishman and Hadwin, who finished solo 6th in his bid for back-to-back wins in as many weeks. The Canadian ended up three shy on 8-under 280 (70-70-69-71).
Leishman’s Position by Round:
Leishman’s Weekly Stats (ranking of 72 players):
Eagles: 1 (T6)
Birdies: 16 (T14)
Bogeys: 7 (T3)
Par-3 Scoring: 2.94 (T4); season-leader at 2.88
Par-4 Scoring: 4.03 (T14)
Par-5 Scoring: 4.31 (2nd)
Driving Distance (all drives): 283.0 yards (17th)
Driving Accuracy: 41/56 (T17) at 73.21 percent
Greens in Regulation: 53/72 (T1) at 73.61 percent
Proximity to hole: 40’0” (T43)
Putts per GIR: 1.736 (23rd)
Total Putts: 116 (T47)
Putts by Round: 29-28-33-26
Scrambling: 13/19 (16th) at 68.42 percent
SG: Off-the-Tee: 1.431 (32nd)
SG: Approach-the-Green: 4.893 (10th)
SG: Around-the-Green: -0.329 (45th)
SG: Tee-to-Green: 5.994 (13th)
SG: Putting: 8.226 (2nd)
Leishman banks 500 FedExCup (FEC) points for the victory and jumps 49 places to 11th in the standings, 968 points behind new-leader Hideki Matsuyama, who finished T45 on 2-over 290 (73-69-72-76), leapfrogging Justin Thomas (idle) by nine points.
Top 10 in FEC standings (points):
1. Hideki Matsuyama (1,746); UP one
2. Justin Thomas (1,737); DOWN one
3. Dustin Johnson (1,353)
4. Adam Hadwin (1,140)
5. Jordan Spieth (1,010)
6. Pat Perez (997)
7. Jon Rahm (941)
8. Brendan Steele (901)
9. Rickie Fowler (838); UP one
10. Gary Woodland (816); DOWN one
With a Strength of Field rating of 518 (up from 462 last year), Leishman collects 62.00 world-ranking points and vaults 30 spots to 32nd in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
Top 10 in OWGR (this week’s finishes):
1. Dustin Johnson (idle)
2. Rory McIlroy (T4); UP one
3. Jason Day (T23); DOWN one
4. Hideki Matsuyama (T45)
5. Henrik Stenson (MC)
6. Jordan Spieth (idle)
7. Justin Thomas (idle)
8. Adam Scott (idle)
9. Rickie Fowler (12th)
10. Sergio Garcia (idle)
13 of the Top 25 in OWGR were in the field; TWO finished in the top 10:
No. 3 Rory McIlroy; pre-tourney fave finished T4
No. 16 Tyrrell Hatton (T4)
Avg. world ranking of the top-10 finishers: 54th
No. 11 Alex Noren (T49)
No. 13 Justin Rose (T13)
No. 15 Paul Casey (T41)
No. 17 Bubba Watson (T34)
No. 19 Branden Grace (MC)
No. 23 Brooks Koepka (MC)
Kevin Kisner: Overnight co-leader and World No. 46 stalled out to a 1-over-par 35-38=73 to post 10-under 278, down one place into a two-way T2, one back.
After opening in 70-67-68, the 33-year-old co-led with Hoffman, three clear of three players, including Leishman. Playing out of the final twosome, he landed 10 (of 14) fairways but just eight GIR, posting a -1.821 SG: Tee-to-Green.
The Georgia alum outpaced bogey-5 at eight (failed scramble) with birdies at 4 and 7, both 15-footers, and led by two at the break. He came home in birdie-less 2-over, squaring a 1-putt bogey-6 at 12, and bogey-4 at 14 (failed scramble).
The South Carolinian missed his last three GIR, saved pars, but ended up needing a hole-out birdie on 18 from a greenside bunker to tie. This was his third API, with a previous-best T49 (2015), and an eighth top 25 of the season in nine starts, third top 10. Chasing a second TOUR win in 141 career events (2016 RSM as 54-hole leader), Kisner settles for his fifth career runner-up, first since solo 2nd at the 2016 WGC-HSBC (also as 54-hole co-leader).
Charley Hoffman: Overnight co-leader and World No. 71 backed up with a 1-over-par 39-34=73 to conclude on 10-under 278, down one spot into a two-way T2 and just a second cash in five tries at Arnie’s Invite (T59/2012).
After kicking off in 68-66, the 40-year-old led by one at the midpoint and chased with 71 to share the lead. He found nine fairways and 10 GIR, recording 0.578 SG: Tee-to-Green and a -0.467 SG: Putting.
The UNLV alum birdied the par-5 fourth (from 3'9") but then ate four bogeys over his next five holes to turn 3-over, dropping to solo 5th and four back of Kisner. He never gave up though, erasing a fifth bogey at the par-3 17th with birdies and 12, 13, and for a fourth consecutive day, birdied the 18th, this one from 12'11".
Hoffman, who was T1 in birdies with 21, settles for a sixth runner-up in 317 career starts (312 pro) and his second top 10 of the season in 11 events (T4, Genesis). He was chasing his fourth TOUR title, first since the 2016 Texas Open, and drops to 0-for-6 as 36-hole leader/co-leader and 0-for-3 as 54-hole leader/co-leader.
A total of 72 pros from a field of 118 pros and two amateurs made the 36-hole cut of 3-over 147:
35 (of 60) EARLY/late
37 (of 58) LATE/early; 1 WD; 1 DQ
11 players finished in the top 10. SEVEN were EARLY/late:
EARLY/late: Marc Leishman (Won); Kevin Kisner (T2); Tyrrell Hatton (T4); Emiliano Grillo (T7); Francesco Molinari (T7); Tommy Fleetwood (T10); Hudson Swafford (T10)
LATE/early: Charley Hoffman (T2); Rory McIlroy (T4); Adam Hadwin (6th); Lucas Glover (T7)
Yahoo! Low Rounds:
R1: Emiliano Grillo, Matthew Fitzpatrick (67)
R2: Charley Hoffman, Tommy Fleetwood, Marc Leishman (66)
R3: Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy (65)
R4: Danny Lee (67)
R1: Matthew Fitzpatrick (67)
R2: Tommy Fleetwood (66); Marc Leishman (66); Francesco Molinari (68)
R3: Rory McIlroy (65); Billy Horschel (67); Hudson Swafford (69)
R4: Danny Lee (67); Emiliano Grillo (68)
Career Record as Leader/Co-Leaders (by round):
R1: Emiliano Grillo; drops to 0-for-2
R1: Matthew Fitzpatrick; drops to 0-for-1
R2: Charley Hoffman; drops to 0-for-6
R3: Charley Hoffman; drops to 0-for-3
R3: Kevin Kisner; drops to 1-for-3
First-timers and/or Rookies:
Top-10 finishes: 2
Tyrrell Hatton: Playing out of the penultimate twosome (with the would-be-champ), the World No. 16 birdied two of his final three holes for 1-under-par 37-34=71, wrapping as top debutant on 9-under 279, down one spot into a two-way T4, two back.
This was the 25-year-old's 14th career TOUR start (13 pro) and eighth top 25, five for top 10s. It was his fourth start of the season, fourth top 25, and third straight top 10, tying a career-TOUR-best T4 at the Honda (on sponsor exemption).
After opening in 72-69-67, the Englishman began in a three-way T3, three back. He striped 11 fairways and hit 11 GIR, losing 0.772 strokes around-the-green and 0.183 on the greens.
The 1-time European Tour winner (92 career events) circled five birdies, four from inside of six feet, including a walk-off 3 at 18 from 5'4". He took some luster off with four bogeys, three failed scrambles and a 3-putt at the par-3 seventh (from 49'4").
This is Hatton's 11th consecutive top-25 finish worldwide – dating back to his win at the 2016 Alfred Dunhill Links – eight of which are top 10s. With 340 non-member FEC points, he is now eligible for Special Temporary Membership (STM), and nudges two to a career-high 14th in OWGR.
Tommy Fleetwood: The World No. 35 opened with 78 and chased with 66-70-68 to conclude his tourney debut on 6-under 282, good for a two-way T10, up 14 places on the day. It’s his second straight top 10 on TOUR (2nd, WGC-Mexico), third in 14 career TOUR events, and bumps two spots to a career-high 33rd in OWGR.
For the week, the 2-time European Tour winner (in 166 starts) recorded one eagle and 15 birdies against 11 bogeys and with 388 total non-member FEC points, is now eligible for STM, along with Hatton and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, who qualified previously with T5 at WGC-Mexico.
TOUR Rookies: 7
Top-10 finishes: 0
Ollie Schniederjans: The World No. 137 was top rookie with T34 on even-par 288 (73-70-72-73). It’s the second time in 12 starts this season where he’s took home top rookie honors (T27, Sony). The Georgia Tech alum got into the Sony via a top 10 at the RSM (T6), the T6 a season best among three top-10 finishes.
Rory McIlroy: This was the reigning FedExCup champ’s third API. He’s been the bookie’s fave heading into each of the three and this was the best result with T4 on 9-under 279 (74-71-65-69). His other two: T27/2016 and T11/2015.
Last year, the Ulsterman was T64 thru 54 holes (75-67-75), 16 back of leader and eventual champ Day, and back-doored the T27 with 65, tying the low lap in R4.
This year, the World No. 3 was only five back thru 54 holes, again thanks to a day-tying-low 65, this one in R3, and finished up with seven birdies versus four bogeys on seven fairways and 14 GIR, lowlighted by a 3-putt bogey at 18 (from 31’4”) that knocked him out of a share of 2nd.
For the week, the 27-year-old was No. 1 in SG: Approach-the-Green (9.807) and SG: Tee-to-Green (13.470), but 51st in SG: Around-the-Green (-0.763) and 57th in SG: Putting (-1.250).
He was T1 in birdies (21) and had one eagle, but squared 10 bogeys and two doubles. In the end, it’s his fourth straight top 10 on TOUR.
12 of 18 winners this season were in their 20s, including nine of last 12.
4 were in their 30s
2 were in their 40s
14 of the 18 winners emerged out of the FINAL group on Sunday. The four outliers are:
Marc Leishman: Penultimate twosome: erased 3-shot deficit w/ 3-under 69; won API by 1.
Hideki Matsuyama: Penultimate threesome: erased 4-shot deficit w/ 5-under 66; won WMPO in playoff.
Jon Rahm: Fifth-to-last threesome: erased 3-shot deficit w/ 7-under 65; won Farmers by 3.
Brendan Steele: Third-to-last threesome: erased 4-shot deficit w/ 7-under 65; won Safeway by 1.
54-hole leaders/co-leaders are now 8-for-18 converting:
Converted: Hideki Matsuyama (WGC-HSBC), Mackenzie Hughes (The RSM Classic), Justin Thomas x2 (SBS TOC and Sony); Jordan Spieth (AT&T Pro-Am); Dustin Johnson (Genesis); Rickie Fowler (Honda); Adam Hadwin (Valspar).
Failed: Patton Kizzire (Safeway); Anirban Lahiri (CIMB); Luke List, Chris Kirk (Sanderson Farms); Lucas Glover (Shriners); Gary Woodland (OHL); Adam Hadwin (CBC); Patrick Rodgers, Brandt Snedeker (FIO); Byeong Hun An (WMPO); Justin Thomas (WGC-Mexico); Kevin Kisner, Charley Hoffman (API).
Note: This was just the third time (18 events) where there’s been co-leaders thru 54 holes (Sanderson Farms, FIO); none of the six players have gone on to win.
Consecutive top 10s on TOUR:
Dustin Johnson (1st-1st-3rd)
Rory McIlroy (T4-T7-T4-P1)
Jon Rahm (T3-T5)
Tyrrell Hatton (T4-10th-T4)
Adam Hadwin (6th-1st)
Tommy Fleetwood (T10-2nd)
Consecutive top-10 streak ended:
Wesley Bryan: The rookie’s run of three straight (T7-T4-T4) ended with a 69th (of 72) on 7-over 295 (77-70-71-77). Gamers should not be too put off with the 26-year-old, as it’s now been five years since a rookie finished in the top 10 at Bay Hill (Bud Cauley, T4/2012).
The TOUR plays two this week with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play taking center stage, beginning on Wednesday. For a second straight week, Day is the defending champion, with this year’s edition the second consecutive at the Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. The Aussie won last year’s edition with a perfect 7-0-0 record.
The opposite-field event is the Puerto Rico Open at the Coco Beach Golf & CC (formerly known as Trump International Puerto Rico). Tony Finau is not defending his title as he’s 1st alternate for the Match Play. The top 4 players in the field world-ranking-wise are:
No. 73 Wesley Bryan; No. 78 Fabrizio Zanotti and No. 80 Thorbjorn Olesen (both non-members); and No. 82 Graeme McDowell. Also in the field is No. 178 Alex Cejka, the 2015 champ who won in a 5-man playoff.
Stay tuned to this space for all the latest player news and analysis as the TOUR plays its 19th and 20th tournaments of the season (of 47).