Marc Leishman Completes Impressive Victory at BMW Championship
Australia’s Marc Leishman completed an impressive wire-to-wire victory in the BMW Championship to banish the memories of a disappointing loss in his previous event to secure a third victory on the PGA Tour and move into one of the coveted top five positions on the FedEx Cup standings before the season-ending Tour Championship.
Having lost a two-shot lead a fortnight ago in the Dell Technologies Championship, the 33-year-old was determined not to have a repeat as he defended a considerable advantage from Rickie Fowler. Despite an entertaining back-and-forth between the two on the front-nine, Leishman was formidable, and it was ultimately left to a resurgent Justin Rose to make a late rally, which the big man from Victoria brushed aside with a run of birdies towards the end.
His four-under 67 set a tournament record and completed a five-shot victory over Rose and Fowler, which sees him ascend to fourth on the standings, crucially with the knowledge that a victory at East Lake this week would secure the $10m prize pot that is awarded to the victor of this lucrative series. Having won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill earlier in the year, Leishman is quietly becoming a leading player in the game, and is now ranked 15th on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Then again, an understated rise is reflective of the man himself. Frequently described as being one of the game’s most likeable personalities, the 2015 Open Championship runner-up had taking up the opportunity of this event to spread attention for sepsis and toxic shock syndrome, which came terrifyingly close to killing his wife Audrey two years ago. Players wore ribbons on their caps to mark Sepsis Awareness Month, and he could share this triumph with the family afterwards. No better way of underlining where the Leishmans had been in 2015, and where they are now.
“It was just nice to put four good rounds on the board in a really big event, and backing up what happened to me last week was probably the most satisfying thing for me,” said Leishman. “You come to every tournament to try and win it. Especially after last week my game was in a good spot and I felt confident with my game and so, yeah, I had my sights set high for the FedExCup and trying to get into the top-five. If I have another good week next week, who knows what might happen.”
Jordan Spieth leads the standings going into the Tour Championship, and he will feel confident after a shooting a 65 on Sunday. PGA champion Justin Thomas holds second position after a remarkable year, while world number one Dustin Johnson is the third man on the list. Marc Leishman is fourth, and impressive rookie Jon Rahm completes the coveted top five who are guaranteed to claim the overall jackpot and trophy with a victory in the final event.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia played his way into the leading 30 – who take their place in the elite tournament in Georgia – but there was disappointment for the likes of Louis Oosthuizen, Henrik Stenson, and Phil Mickelson, who all failed to qualify. Rory McIlroy – coming off a disjointed and frustrating season – completed his final event in America this year way down the field, a mammoth 21 shots behind the winner. The Northern Irishman will finalise his campaign at the imminent Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland before taking a break from competing until next year.
There was drama in the Netherlands, as France’s Romain Wattel secured his long overdue maiden victory on the European Tour following a tumultuous finish at The Dutch.
Having recorded 25 top ten finishes on the circuit, the 26-year-old has long been considered a potential star, but the former Scottish Amateur Strokeplay champion had endured a disappointing season in 2017, not finishing better than 24th in a tournament and finding himself languishing at 130th on the Race to Dubai. Those frustrations are now a distant memory, however.
There was a moment of anxiety on the 18th after missing his approach, but an up-and-down under pressure was enough to finish one shot ahead of Canada’s Austin Connelly – perhaps best known for his run at the U.S. Open earlier this year. Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who had led going into the final day, made two double bogeys on the back-nine – including on the last hole – to finish three back.
“I came to this tournament, I was playing poorly to be honest,” Wattel said afterwards. “Last week I struggled with my game.
“I am happy with the way I played all week. It’s been a very nice weekend.
“I’ve been putting really bad the last two years – I think I’m a really good putter but the last two years were tough for me.
“I never thought about the score, I just tried to play my best. I was just trying to be as high as I could on the leaderboard but it was very tight. I just tried to play my own game.
“I have been in contention before and while I had not won before I knew what I had to do; I knew what I had to expect and thankfully this time it was my week. It feels amazing to win for the first time – I am so happy right now.”
Eddie Pepperell, George Coetzee, Justin Walters, Sebastian Heisele, and Joel Stalter were two behind Wattel at 13-under, as was the experienced Lee Westwood, playing in his 501st event on the tour. The 44-year-old is keen to prove that there is still life within his career, and the Englishman will be encouraged by a recent sequence of results as he accumulates early Ryder Cup points.
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