Marc Leishman didn’t miss anything that mattered except the congratulatory handshake from Arnold Palmer.
The 33-year-old Australian took the lead with a 51-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole and got up-and-down by sinking a three-footer for par on the last hole to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one stroke over 54-hole co-leaders Charley Hoffman and Kevin Kisner at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla.
“You see guys win and (Palmer) is waiting there on the back of the green,” Leishman said of the man they called “The King,” who died in September at the age of 87. “And to not have that is obviously very sad, but to win here is just a dream come true.
“Around here things can change so quick. You don’t have to hit that bad of a shot to make bogeys out there. … I holed some good putts there on the last few holes. They all went in the middle of the hole, which was nice. Obviously the putter was there with me all week.”
Leishman, whose only other PGA Tour victory came in the 2012 Travelers Championship, closed with a 3-under-par 69 for a 72-hole total of 11-under 277.
Kisner, who held a three-stroke lead midway through the final round, carded three bogeys and eight pars on the last 11 holes to shoot 73, while Hoffman salvaged a tie for second with a 13-foot putt on the final hole to also shoot 73.
“I had it right there in the palm of my hand to win, and I didn’t get it done,” said Kisner, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2015 RSM Classic. “Two-over on the back nine is not good enough. So I got to get better and I’ll work on that.
“I just didn’t hole any putts on the back nine.”
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland had a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to tie Kisner for the lead, but it went eight feet past and he missed the come-backer to make a bogey and total 69, tying for third with Tyrrell Hatton of England, who birdied two of the last three holes for a 71.
Adam Hadwin of Canada, who won the Valspar Championship last week, made a critical double-bogey 6 on the 16th hole en route to a 71 and was three shots back in solo sixth, while Emiliano Grillo of Argentina posted a 68 to wind up another stroke behind in a tie for seventh with Francesco Molinari of Italy, who recorded a 69, and 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, who came in at 72.
Tommy Fleetwood of England and Hudson Swafford closed with 68s to wind up six down in a tie for 10th, while Rickie Fowler of Murrieta was another stroke behind in 12th after a 72.
Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose of England tied for 13th with a 73, defending champion and second-ranked Jason Day of Australia tied for 23rd after a 70 and fourth-ranked Hideki Matsuyama of Japan shot 76 to tie for 45th.