BAY HILL, Fla.—Mark Leishman’s dramatic eagle on the 16th hole propelled him to victory at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational.
After taking the lead on the 16th, the Australian Leishman, made two difficult up and downs on 17 and 18 to secure the victory. An afterthought to start the round, his solid play and the failings of leaders Kevin Kisner and Charlie Hoffman opened the door to the trophy.
Only his second victory on the PGA tour and first since 2012, this win establishes Leishman as a top contender with a definite chance to win a major in the near future. His wife Audrey, who endured a life-threatening illness just two years ago, and their two sons Harvey and Ollie joined their daddy on the 18th green to celebrate. The day got even better as Leishman announced that they are expecting their third child.
Rory McIlroy made a Palmeresque charge up the leaderboard and grabbed a share of the with a birdie on 16. He had a chance to get into the clubhouse at 11 under but missed a 15-foot putt on the high side and it drifted five feet past the hole. He then missed the comebacker and any chance of victory was lost. Kisner and Hoffman, playing in the last group, had a chance to tie Leishman on 18 but Hoffman need eagle and Kisner birdie, an unlikely scenario. Hoffman ended up making birdie and Kisner par so they both finished one back of the champ.
This was the first Bay Hill without its namesake Palmer and the memorials were everywhere around the Orlando resort. Video tributes were steaming on monitors and a new statue was unveiled near the first tee.
Not only a six-time major winner, Arnold Palmer was also a highly accomplished pilot, being the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a Lear jet. His name alone has drawn top tour players to this event and made it one of the top tournaments to win for the year. They have now even added a red cardigan as a prize to the winner, a la the green jacket at Augusta. The cardigan is another tribute to Palmer as it was his choice of attire when playing in chilly weather. As Leishman donned the sweater with his family by his side, he looked a like a man who had everything going for him.
Arnold Palmer knew that feeling.