Leishman grabs PGA win, Masters berth
Australian golfer Marc Leishman has won the US PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill thanks to a late eagle.
Marc Leishman believes his first US PGA Tour victory in five years is the confidence boost he needs to break through for a maiden major championship in 2017, starting with the Masters.
Just over two weeks out from the majors season, the 33-year-old Australian holed a 50-foot eagle putt on the 16th to set up a timely one-shot victory over Americans Charley Hoffman and Kevin Kisner at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Florida's Bay Hill resort on Sunday.
His second US PGA Tour title - his first since the 2012 Travelers Championship - earned world No.62 Leishman one of the last available spots in the Masters starting on April 6.
He is also now exempt for the US PGA Championship in August and his projected ranking of world No.32 should also ensure he gets into the US Open and British Open.
Leishman has already been a contender in majors, missing out in a playoff for the 2015 British Open at St Andrews and sharing fourth place when countryman Adam Scott won the Masters green jacket in 2013.
And he says Sunday's victory, following months of good form, is just the tonic he needed to step up on golf's biggest stage again.
"I'm a lot more confident now. I'm feeling good about the Masters," Leishman told AAP.
"It'll be nice to go to the Masters coming off good play; especially at a course like Augusta where pinpoint iron shots, good putting and good driving are all really important."
Leishman's monster putt on the 16th gave him the lead and he clung on with par saves at the next two holes to record a three-under 69 and win at 11-under-277 from third round leaders Hoffman and Kisner, who had 73s.
The win came in the first Arnold Palmer Invitational since the legendary golfer's death in September
"You see guys win and he (Palmer) is waiting there on the back of the green and to not have that is obviously very sad, but to win here is just a dream come true," said Leishman.
Adding to the good majors vibes for Leishman was the fact he ended his weekend woes in 2017 - the Warrnambool native had finished inside the top 25 in six of his eight events this season, including two top-10 results, without lifting a trophy.
"I have had quite a few chances to win this year going into Sundays," said Leishman.
"(Closing) like I did this week is certainly a big step in the right direction."
Leishman's victory was timely not only for him but for Australian golf.
It was the first by an Australian on the US PGA Tour this year, and the second this season after Rod Pampling's win in Las Vegas in November.
Suddenly Australia's chances in the majors look a bit better after a relatively lean time for leading pair Jason Day and Adam Scott who have only finished in the top-10 once each this season - compared to 2016 when the duo had two wins each prior to the Masters.
However, Day showed good signs with a stylish finish to his lacklustre Arnold Palmer Invitational title defence, closing with a 70 to finish at two-under in a share of 23rd.
"I feel good and I'm trending in the right direction; the chipping and putting I'm very happy with, the (ball striking) is starting to come along and finally the driver is starting to feel a lot more comfortable in my hands," said Day.
Rory McIlroy announced himself as one of the players to beat at Augusta with his share of fourth place on Sunday coming two weeks after placing seventh at the World Golf Championship event in Mexico City.