Golf

Kevin Kisner lines up a putt on the 16th green during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill Club & Lodge on March 18.(Photo: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Late eagle carries Marc Leishman to victory at Arnold Palmer Invitational

ORLANDO — Marc Leishman’s 5-year-old son, Harvey, just wanted a trophy.

“Let’s go get the trophy!” he shouted outside the scoring trailer not long after overnight co-leader Kevin Kisner made par at No. 18 to seal the comeback win for Leishman at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“We’ll get the trophy in a minute,” said Leishman, who made a 52-foot eagle putt at No. 16 and shot 3-under 69 in the final round. He finished at 11-under 277. “It will be worth it. I promise.”

Leishman, 33, already had waited five years for his second career victory. He could wait a few more minutes. And there’s no question he earned the trophy after starting the final round three shots behind Kisner and Charley Hoffman, ultimately topping each of them by a shot.

 

“Mr. Palmer was an awesome guy who I was lucky enough to meet a few times at this tournament,” Leishman said. “To honor him is huge.”

It was all eyes on Rory McIlroy at Bay Hill for much of Sunday’s final round, as he captivated the fans and played his way into a three-way tie atop the leaderboard before Leishman’s putt on 16.

Making just his second PGA Tour start of 2016-17, McIlroy seemed a bit perplexed after beginning with 74-71 at Bay Hill. He made his move Saturday, shooting 7-under 65 to reach 5 under, still six shots off the lead.

He sent a message Sunday, in case anyone forgot what he was capable of after he was shelved by a rib injury in January. Dustin Johnson ascended to world No. 1 last month. Given what we saw this weekend, McIlroy – who moves to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking – looks ready to take another run with the Masters just three weeks away.

“I struggled for the first two days here,” McIlroy said. “I found it a little bit on the weekend, and it’s just nice to get to play again.”

McIlroy made back-to-back birdies on nine and 10 to get to 9 under and nearly chipped in for eagle on No. 16, the fans groaning as it slipped just past the cup for a tap-in birdie. It wouldn’t have made a difference thanks to a three-putt bogey on No. 18, but McIlroy created a buzz around Bay Hill that no one else in contention was capable of Sunday afternoon.

“I made a run,” McIlroy said after finishing in a tie for fourth. “I had two good chances on the last two holes. I thought that, walking up to the last green, I saw Leishman had made eagle on 16 to go to 11 (under), so I definitely gave (the putt on 18) a run. That’s for sure. A bit too much of a run. But these things happen. I’m pleased with how (the round) went.”

Leishman stood tall as McIlroy made his run, playing the final seven holes in 2 under and making par at the tough closing hole when he knew a bogey likely would mean a playoff. Kisner needed birdie on No. 18 but put his approach shot in the bunker and made par. He and Hoffman each shot 73 in the final round.

“Not happy,” Kisner said. “I had it right there in the palm of my hand to win, and I didn’t get it done.”

Leishman, who last won at the 2012 Travelers Championship, followed Jason Day’s 2016 triumph to became the second consecutive Australian to win this tournament.

“There weren’t too many leaderboards out there, which is a good thing,” Leishman said. “I saw (Kisner) got to 13 (under) at one point. I can’t remember what score I was on. On a course like this, it’s hard. Just one bad shot can jump up and you can make double very easily .”

Now Harvey and Leishman’s 3-year-old son, Oliver, will have another trophy around the house. And they’ll soon receive a new addition to their wardrobes with dad earning a Masters appearance.

“Augusta, Par 3 Contest,” said Leishman’s wife, Audrey. “I’ll have to go order their outfits.”

____

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Tom Lehman took advantage of senior newcomer Steve Stricker’s late mistakes Sunday to win the Tucson Conquistadores Classic 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. The 58-year-old Lehman is coming off arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

“I haven’t been playing a lot of golf,” Lehman said. “Had surgery in early November. Had a great doctor and had a great physical therapist, Tom Bratcher, who kind of really put me through the paces over the last 3 1/2-4 months getting ready to play. I give him a lot the credit.”

Stricker followed his second-round 63 with a 70. He was trying to become the 19th player to win in his first start on the 50-and-over tour and first since Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2014.

“It was a good week. It was a good positive week,” Stricker said. “I did a lot of good things. My game is always a work in progress, it’s like anybody’s, and I haven’t played that much yet so far this year. I think this is just my fourth event. Yeah, I’m excited.”

Stricker bogeyed the par-3 16th, matched Lehman with a birdie on the par-5 17th, and bogeyed the par-4 18th after hitting a 3-wood drive left into the water.

“I clawed my way back and I took a couple-shot lead going up to 16 there,” Stricker said. “I three-putt and he makes birdie and that was really the tournament. The drive on the last, which I thought was a good one, it was 300 yards to that water there on that line and I hit 3-wood and we thought we had it into the wind, so I don’t know how it went so far.”

Lehman won for the first time since the 2015 SAS Championship, finishing at 20-under 199 on Omni Tucson National’s Catalina Course. He won the 1996 British Open and four other PGA Tour titles.

“I’ve been working hard to get in shape,” Lehman said. “Since I couldn’t play golf, I spent a lot of time just trying to get in better shape and I think that really paid off this week. I feel much better over the golf ball, hit a lot of good shots, made some good putts, had a lot of energy.”

Stricker turned 50 on Feb. 23. The 12-time PGA Tour winner will captain the U.S. Presidents Cup team in September. He missed the cut last week in the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship.

“He played quite well, himself,” Lehman said. “He has nothing to be ashamed of. I can assure you, he played outstanding golf and I just made a couple more putts.”

Lehman erased a three-stroke deficit on the first two holes. He went birdie-eagle, and Stricker opened with his first bogey of the week.

Bernhard Langer broke the tour record for consecutive rounds under par at 32, shooting a 65 to finish third at 15 under. Gil Morgan set the previous mark in 2000. Colin Montgomerie has 30 straight sub-par rounds. He didn’t play the event.

Fred Couples (70), Billy Andrade (70) and Gene Sauers (69) were 14 under.

Bob Estes (67) tied for 23rd at 8 under in his senior debut.

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LPGA FOUNDERS CUP

PHOENIX (AP) — Anna Nordqvist caught up with some college friends — and left everyone else behind Sunday on another hot afternoon at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

The 29-year-old former Arizona State player shot a 4-under 68 to hold off fellow major champions Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis and In Gee Chun by two strokes in record 96-degree heat at Desert Ridge.

“I have so many friends and family here. They feel like family, my U.S. family,” the 6-foot Swede said. “Couldn’t think of a better place to be. I’m just so happy to be back. I wasn’t even going to play a couple weeks ago and just ended up adding it last minute. Maybe it was meant to be.”

Nordqvist won her seventh LPGA Tour title and first since successfully defending at the ShopRite LPGA Classic last June. In the U.S. Women’s Open in July, she lost a three-hole playoff to Brittany Lang after being penalized two strokes for touching the sand with her club in a fairway bunker on the second extra hole.

She ended up back in the Valley of Sun after dropping the Women’s Australian Open from her schedule because it didn’t count in the European Solheim Cup standings.

“Of all the wins probably this is the one that’s going to be more special,” Nordqvist said. “If it wasn’t for me getting an opportunity to come to Arizona State University about 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be here today. This truly still feels like home, even though I’m based in Florida.”

Nordqvist had a tournament-record 61 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead into the final round. She finished at 25-under 263, two shots off the LPGA Tour record that Sei Young Kim matched last year in the event that honors the 13 women who started the tour in 1950.

“My phone was blowing up yesterday and I was just trying to play it chill,” Nordqvist said. “I knew it was one more round to play, so kept my head down.”

Lewis finished with a 68.

“I just couldn’t quite get the putts to fall,” Lewis said. “Hit a lot of good shots and didn’t quite get rewarded for them. But I played well and it is hard to get too upset.”

Lewis is winless in 67 events since June 2014. The 32-year-old Texan finished second for the 25th time in her career and the 12th since her last victory. She won at Desert Ridge in 2013 to reach No. 1 in the world, was second in 2014 and 2015 and tied for fourth last year.

Jutanugarn matched Nordqvist with a 68 in the final pairing, playing the back nine in 5 under. The second-ranked Thai star had a bogey-free week. She won five LPGA Tour titles last year and topped the player of the year points race and money list.

Nordqvist made a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-4 10th to take a one-stroke lead, and doubled the margin with an 18-footer on the par-4 13th. She made a 25-footer on the par-3 17th and bogeyed the par-4 18th after hitting into the left greenside bunker.

“Saw the leaderboard on 15, but I just tried to keep my head down and do my thing,” Nordqvist said. “Felt like I played pretty solid on the front and made two good putts on 13 and 17. A little interesting at the end, but I’m so happy and proud of myself this week.”

She earned $225,000 and is projected to jump from 13th to 11th in the world ranking.

Chun had a 66, and Ha Na Jang (63), Inbee Park (67) and So Yeon Ryu (69) tied for fifth at 21 under.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko also had a bogey-free week, closing with a 68 to tie for eighth at 20 under. She joined Chun and Sandra Gal in showering friend Nordqvist with water on the 18th green.

Moria Jutanugarn, Ariya’s older sister, also was 20 under after a career-best 63.

U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster, at 56 years old, had a 64 that drew a hug and “playing captain” joke from LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan. It was the Hall of Famer’s lowest round on tour since also shooting 64 in the 2003 Evian Masters. She tied for 24th at 16 under.

“I like the challenge of getting better and playing,” Inkster said. “I don’t know if that makes sense, but I really enjoy playing golf. I really enjoy practicing and I really enjoy working on my game, especially when you have days like this where things come together and it works out. Just got to learn how to put the four rounds together again.”

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