Marc Leishman has vowed to use a Bay Hill near miss to correct his sub-par record at THE PLAYERS and push on towards a maiden major breakthrough.
In conditions more reminiscent of a major championship test and wind and firmness all too familiar for someone who grew up playing on Melbourne’s sandbelt, Leishman pushed Englishman Tyrrell Hatton all the way to the 72nd hole before ultimately coming up one shot short.
Winner at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in 2017, Leishman was named as one of three 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational ambassadors prior to the start of the tournament and revelled in the difficult scoring conditions.
Matthew Fitzpatrick was the only player across the final 36 holes to break 70 but Leishman hung tough, fighting back from three shots down to draw within one of Hatton with six holes to play.
A dropped shot at the par-3 14th when Leishman missed the green right was countered by a birdie at the par-5 16th but Hatton held his nerve under immense pressure, claiming a one-shot win and his first PGA TOUR title.
Without a finish inside the top 60 at TPC Sawgrass since he was tied for 24th in 2015, Leishman is aware of his record at THE PLAYERS but will head to Ponte Vedra Beach buoyed by his Bay Hill showing.
“Obviously anytime you have a chance to win you want to pull it off and win. You don’t get too many chances,” Leishman said following his final round of 1-over 73.
“So, yes, I’m disappointed, but I’m happy I played well.
“It felt like a US Open out there. Fast greens, long rough, narrow fairways, and big crowd, big vocal crowds. It was a lot of fun.
“Obviously, I would have liked to have won but that was a fun day, a fun week.
“Going into the PLAYERS next week in a good place mentally and with the major season coming up as well so going to take some positives out of this.
“Happy to put four pretty good rounds together and try and do the same thing at PLAYERS next week.
“I think I’m due for a good week there. That’s why I’m going there. But my game’s in a good spot.
“I feel great with the putter. Hoping next week can be my week there.
“I’ve only had one top 10 there in 10 or 11 events so it hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for me, but we’ll try and change that.”
Kiwi Danny Lee recorded his best result since he was second at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in Korea last year, his fifth-place finish elevating him back inside the top 100 in the world, but it was a difficult day for Matt Jones. The New South Welshman dropped from the top 10 to a tie for 47th with a 9-over 81 including four dropped shots in his final three holes.
There is also concern for Jason Day who was forced to withdraw early in the second round with a recurrence of his back injury while Adam Scott missed the cut.
Jason Scrivener was the only Aussie to qualify for the weekend at the European Tour’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and made a late charge with one of the best rounds of the final day.
Starting Sunday tied for 57th, Scrivener’s six birdies and round of 5-under 66 was bettered by only two players and resulted in a move up to 21st as Spain’s Jorge Campillo outlasted David Drysdale to claim victory at the fifth playoff hole at Education City Golf Club.
As Presidents Cup captain Ernie Els logged his first win on the Champions Tour Victorian David McKenzie registered his best result of the year, three straight rounds of 68 earning a share of 10th at the Hoag Classic at Newport Country Club in California.
Arnold Palmer Invitational
Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando, Florida
T2 Marc Leishman 71-69-72-73—285 $US1,013,700
T5 Danny Lee 71-67-75-75—288 $330,731
T47 Matt Jones 75-68-73-81—297 $25,054
MC Adam Scott 77-72—149
WD Jason Day 74
Newport Beach Country Club, Newport Beach, California
T10 David McKenzie 68-68-68—204 $US43,200
T36 Stephen Leaney 71-68-71—210 $9,566
T60 Rod Pampling 71-72-73—216 $2,970
Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
Education City GC, Doha, Qatar
T21 Jason Scrivener 70-71-70-66—277 €16,606
MC Maverick Antcliff 70-72—142
MC Jake McLeod 70-72—142
MC Min Woo Lee 72-71—143
WD Scott Hend 73
Estrella del Mar Open
Estrella del Mar Golf and Beach, Mazatlan, Mexico
T28 Danny List 67-67-68-70—272
T35 James Anstiss 67-67-68-71—273