Miami - Australia's Marc Leishman sank a 51-foot eagle putt
on the 16th hole on Sunday and held off a charging Rory McIlroy and two others to
capture the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
One-putting the last four holes at Bay Hill, the 33-year-old
Aussie surged late to claim his first US victory since 2012.
"It just all came together," Leishman said.
"To do it here is really good. It was just an unbelievable day."
Leishman fired a final-round three-under par 69 to stand on
11-under 277 for 72 holes at the famed Orlando, Florida, layout in the first
event since the death of tournament namesake Palmer, the golf legend who had
hosted the event annually.
"Palmer was a very special guy," Leishman said.
"To win it in honour of him was huge."
Americans Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman, co-leaders
entering the final round, each fired 73s to share second on 278 with McIlroy
and England's Tyrell Hatton sharing fourth on 279 and Canada's Adam Hadwin on
McIlroy will jump past Australia's Jason Day to become world
number two on Monday with American Dustin Johnson still atop the rankings, but
a closing bogey ended his title bid in what became a four-man shootout down the
"Around here, things can change so quick,"
Leishman said. "You've just got to stay right in it, not think about
what's the end result, just focus on what you've got to do. I was focused on my
putts and luckily they all went into the hole."
Leishman's first victory in front of his family was enough
to qualify him for the Masters in three weeks at Augusta National, where he
shared fourth in 2013.
His only prior US PGA victory had come in the 2012 Travelers
His lone European Tour title was at the 2015 Nedbank
Challenge, although he was a British Open runner-up in 2015, losing in a
playoff to Zach Johnson.
McIlroy tapped in for birdie at the par-5 16th to join
Hoffman one off Kisner's lead, but Kisner found the rough at the par-3 14th and
missed an eight-foot par putt, leaving the trio deadlocked in front as the
Leishman, who was one adrift, jumped into the lead at the
par-5 16th when he reached the green in two and then sank his eagle stunner to
leapfrog the leaders and take the top spot at 11-under.
McIlroy stumbled at 18, three-putting from 31 feet for a
closing bogey, and Hoffman faltered at 17, finding a bunker off the tee and
missing an eight-foot par putt to fall back. Not even his fourth birdie at 18
in as many days could salvage his hopes.
Leishman was short of the green with his second shot at 18,
but pitched the ball three feet from the cup and tapped in the tense par putt
to reach the clubhouse one ahead of Kisner.
In the last group, Kisner sent his approach at 18 into a
bunker and needed to hole it to force a playoff. When the ball rolled four feet
wide, Leishman had the victory.
Leading scores after Sunday's final round of the US PGA Arnold Palmer
Invitational at par-72 Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida (USA unless noted):
277 - Marc Leishman (AUS) 71-66-71-69
278 - Charley Hoffman 68-66-71-73, Kevin Kisner 70-67-68-73
279 - Rory McIlroy (NIR) 74-71-65-69, Tyrell Hatton (ENG) 72-69-67-71
280 - Adam Hadwin (CAN) 70-70-69-71
281 - Emiliano Grillo (ARG) 67-68-78-68, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 70-68-74-69, Lucas Glover 68-69-72-72
282 - Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 78-66-70-68, Hudson Swafford 73-72-69-68
283 - Rickie Fowler 74-72-65-72
284 - Brian Harman 72-70-73-69, Billy Horschel 72-73-67-72, Justin Rose (ENG) 71-70-70-73, Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 67-69-72-76
- Danny Lee (NZL) 75-70-73-67, Luke List 71-71-72-71, Pat Perez
74-70-69-72, Michael Kim 72-71-70-72, Kyle Stanley 73-68-69-75, Greg
Chalmers (AUS) 69-72-69-75
286 - Wang Jeung-Hun (KOR) 71-68-77-70,
Jamie Lovemark 72-69-75-70, Jason Day (AUS) 70-71-75-70, Vaughn Taylor
71-71-73-71, Martin Kaymer (GER) 73-71-68-74