THE winner’s red cardigan was a perfect adornment for Marc Leishman in Orlando yesterday as the soon-to-be father of three savoured victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational with his family.
As well as the wardrobe addition, the Victorian’s one-shot win earned him a cheque for $2 million, a three-year US PGA Tour exemption and a spot in next month’s Masters.
But for Leishman, 33, having sons Oliver and Harvey charge out to him on the 18th green, and a kiss from wife Audrey, topped the lot.
The Leishman family has been to hell and back since Audrey was put in an induced coma in April 2015, diagnosed with toxic shock, as Leishman abandoned all immediate golf plans, including the Masters, to play nothing but dad.
Audrey slowly recovered and Leishman got back on the course for the British Open in July 2015, losing in a playoff.
Audrey is close to full health now and will give birth to their third child, a daughter, in July.
Before that Leishman will head back to Augusta and look to add a green jacket to his expanding wardrobe.
“Oh, man, when it was all happening (with Audrey) … it was terrible, I mean, I was ready to give it away. If Audrey had have passed away, I was going to be a dad and that was it,” he said yesterday.
“So, yeah, it’s been a wild ride and you certainly do appreciate the good times a lot more and appreciate just everything, your kids and your family and just having people around.
“It’s just so special to have your two kids and wife run out on to that green. I wasn’t quite sure if I had won then or not, I knew it was a pretty good chance, but it’s very special. Especially after everything we have gone through.”
Starting the day three shots behind overnight leader Kevin Kisner, Leishman was one shot back when he nailed a 15m eagle putt on the 16th hole to take the lead.
He made two pars to close out his round, including a clutch up-and-down from short of the green on 18, before waiting for Kisner to finish.
The American needed a birdie on the final hole to force a playoff but pushed his approach into a bunker, couldn’t hole out from the trap, and victory was Leishman’s.
It was the second straight Australian win in the Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill after Jason Day’s victory last year, and Leishman’s first in the US since 2012.
He jumped to 32 in the world rankings and will hit Augusta with renewed confidence.
Leishman, from Warrnambool, has missed the cut at the Masters three times in four visits, but he finished tied for fourth in 2013 when he played the last round with eventual winner Adam Scott.
“I’m a lot more confident now. I’m feeling good about the Masters,” Leishman said.
“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.”
GREEN IS GOLD
Aussie chasing Masters glory at Augusta
Jason Day ($12)
Adam Scott ($21)
Marc Leishman ($41)
Rod Pampling ($251)
Curtis Luck (amateur – $201)
Originally published as Palmer win a family affair for Leishman