ORLANDO — Marc Leishman holed a 50-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole to take the lead Sunday, and the Australian 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 made the par putt for 3-under 69 and one-shot victory over Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman, finish at 11-under 277.
The only thing missing was a handshake from the King. It 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 69 to finish two shots back. "These things happen," he said. "But I'm pleased with how I went. Ten under for the weekend around here is good scoring, and I can take a lot of positives from it going into next week."
Kisner and Hoffman also squandered away their chances, each shooting final-round 73s. Kisner had a three-shot lead at the turn; Hoffman rallied from 39 on the front nine to catch Kisner for the lead, only to three-putt for par on the 16th, then drop another shot from the bunker on the 17th. He made birdie on the 18th that gave him a tie for second.
He was ranked No. 62 and had only two weeks left to secure a spot in Augusta National. The victory takes care of that.
LPGA: Anna Nordqvist caught up with some college friends and left everyone else behind at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix. The former Arizona State player shot 4-under 68 to hold off fellow major champions Ariya Jutanugarn (68), Stacy Lewis (68) and In Gee Chun (66) by two strokes in record 96-degree heat to finish at 25-under 263.
CHAMPIONS: Tom Lehman took advantage of senior newcomer Steve Stricker's late mistakes to win the Tucson (Ariz.) Conquistadores Classic for his 10th victory on the 50-and-over tour. Two strokes behind Stricker with three holes left, Lehman closed with two birdies and a par for 7-under 66 and a one-shot win at 20-under 199 over playing-partner Stricker (70). Stricker bogeyed the par-3 16th, matched Lehman with birdie on the par-5 17th but bogeyed the par-4 18th.