ORLANDO, Fla. — Marc Leishman holed a 50-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole to take the lead Sunday, and he stayed there with two tough pars at the end to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational and earn a trip to the Masters.
In a final hour that featured four players having at least a share of the lead, Leishman is the only one who didn’t blink.
His final act was a pitch-and-run from 45 yards away on the closing hole at Bay Hill that ran out to 3 feet. He calmly made the par putt for a 3-under 69 and one-shot victory over Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman.
The only thing missing was a handshake from the King. This was the first Arnold Palmer Invitational since the September death of the beloved tournament host.
“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.”
Rory McIlroy had as good a chance as anyone, storming into a share of the lead by hooking a wedge around a tree, over the water and over the green on the 16th, then nearly holing the eagle chip.
He had a 30-foot birdie putt to tie for the lead on the 18th, and after seeing that Leishman had made eagle on the 16th, gave it a good run. The putt went 8 feet by and three-putt for a 69 to finish two shots back.
Kisner and Hoffman also squandered away their chances.
Kisner had a three-shot lead at the turn, but failed to make another birdie the rest of the way. His lead began slipping away when Kisner missed the green on the par-5 12th with a sand wedge, pitched over the other side of the green and took bogey. He closed with a 73.
Hoffman rallied from a 39 on the front nine to catch Kisner for the lead, only to three-putt for par on the 16th and then drop another shot from the bunker on the 17th. He made birdie on the 18th that gave him a tie for second.
CHAMPIONS TOUR: Tom Lehman took advantage of senior newcomer Steve Stricker’s late mistakes to win the Tucson Conquistadores Classic in Tuscon, Arizona for his 10th PGA Tour Champions victory.
Two strokes behind Stricker with three holes to play, Lehman closed with two birdies and a par for a 7-under 66 and a one-stroke victory over playing partner Stricker.
LPGA TOUR: Anna Nordqvist shot a 4-under 68 to hold off Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis and In Gee Chun by two strokes in 96-degree heat at Desert Ridge.
Nordqvist finished at 25-under 263, two strokes off the LPGA Tour record that Sei Young Kim matched last year at Desert Ridge.