Australia’s Marc Leishman won the Arnold Palmer Invitational after shooting a final round 69 at Bay Hill to finish on 11 under par.
The 33 year old from Victoria finished one shot ahead of 54-hole leaders Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman, with Rory McIlroy a further stroke back in tied fourth with England’s Tyrrell Hatton.
Kisner was four shots clear after the seventh hole of the final round, after Hoffman slipped back with four bogeys in five holes from the fifth, but bogeys at the 8th and the 12th opened the door for first McIlroy, and, ultimately, Leishman to stake their claim to the title.
Back-to-back birdies around the turn gave McIlroy’s followers hope, and a further gain at the par-five 12th lifted the Northern Irishman within two of the lead. However, a dropped shot at the 14th, and a three-putt bogey at the last, saw his chances of victory dashed.
Leishman grabbed the outright lead by draining a 50-foot eagle putt at the par-five 16th, and he parred the last two holes to set the clubhouse lead at 11 under. Kisner had to birdie the 18th to force a play-off, but the American could only make par to hand Leishman his second PGA Tour title – and earn an invitation to next month’s Masters.
Hatton birdied the 16th and 18th to shoot a final round 71, and bag his third consecutive top-10 finish in stroke play events on the PGA Tour. Fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood also continued his good form in the States, with a tied 10th finish after a closing 68.
The tournament was the first to be held without the presence of its host, Arnold Palmer, following his death last year. And Leishman was the first winner to collect the trophy without a handshake from the great man.
“You see guys win and he’s waiting there on the back of the green,” Leishman said. “And to not have that is obviously very sad, but to win here is just a dream come true. Mr Palmer was an awesome guy, whom I was lucky enough to meet a few times. To honour him was huge. And it was the first time I’ve won a tournament with my family here, so it’s all come together.”