Given another opportunity to win, Marc Leishman didn’t give anyone much of a chance in the BMW Championship.
Staked to a five-shot lead, Leishman made back-to-back birdies late in the final round Sunday to put away the final challenge, then closed with a birdie for a four-under 67 to set the tournament record and win by five over Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler.
It was Leishman’s second victory this year, and it sends him to East Lake as the No 4 seed in the FedEx Cup, giving him a clear shot at the $10-million prize.
Leishman finished at 23-under 261, breaking the 72-hole tournament record that Tiger Woods set at Cog Hill in 2007.
The timing could not have been better for the 33-year-old Australian. In his last event two weeks ago, he lost a two-shot lead on the back nine at the TPC Boston and said that loss stung more than most.
‘I had a few scars from a few weeks ago,’ Leishman said. ‘I was just really, really determined to not let that happen again. Got it done.’
And it was never really close.
Rose is the only player who got within two shots of the lead, only for Leishman to answer with a 30-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole and a 10-footer for birdie on the 16th. Rose closed with a 65.
Fowler made a late run when he was too far back, and he needed one more birdie on the 18th to grab the No 5 seed for the FedExCup finale next week at the TOUR Championship. He ripped driver off the fairway and over the stream to the back rough. It was a bold play that preceded a pair of meagre efforts — a chip that came up 25 feet short, and a birdie putt that didn’t. He closed with a 67.
Jon Rahm birdied four of his last five holes for a 67 and will be the No 5 seed.
Jordan Spieth shot 65 to tie for seventh and kept the No 1 seed, followed by Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Leishman and Rahm. The points are reset to give all 30 players at East Lake a mathematical chance, but the top five seeds only have to win the TOUR Championship to capture the FedExCup.
Xander Schauffele, who won The Greenbrier Classic in July, opened with 10 pars and two bogeys and was not even in the picture until the San Diego native played his final six holes in six-under par, including a 30-foot eagle when he drove the green on the par-4 15th.
Patrick Cantlay fell out of the top 30 when he took bogey on the 16th hole. Needing a birdie to get into the TOUR Championship, he hit a hybrid on to the green to 50 feet, left his eagle attempt some 10 feet short and calmly holed the putt to get in.
Cantlay returned to golf after a three-year break from a back injury that nearly ended his career, and the death of his close friend and caddie, Chris Roth, who was hit by car as they walked to dinner. The former UCLA star made it to the TOUR Championship, despite playing only 11 events this year. Being in the top 30 gets him into the Masters, US Open and British Open next year.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia injected more drama than necessary. He figured he needed a par on the final hole to get into the top 30 when a bogey would have worked. His second shot was on the rocks in the stream, and after taking close to 30 minutes on a drop, he smacked it over the green into the grandstand, got more relief, and then got up-and-down for his par.
Phil Mickelson wasn’t so fortunate. He made three bogeys on the front nine and tried to get back in the game with an eagle on the reachable par-4 15th. Needing an eagle on the 18th hole to make it to East Lake, Mickelson’s 140-foot pitch-and-run hit the hole and popped out.
Leishman earlier this year won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. This third victory of his tour career was by far the biggest, and went far beyond the strong field, the $1,575,000 paycheck, or his standing in the FedExCup.
Leishman pegged this event as a chance to spread awareness for sepsis and toxic shock syndrome, which nearly killed his wife two years ago. He asked the players to wear ribbons on their caps this week to celebration Sepsis Awareness Month. And then he went wire-to-wire, walking off the 18th green to see his wife, Audrey, and their three young children.
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