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This time, Leishman slams the door shut

By Will GraySeptember 18, 2017, 12:22 am

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – With the tournament reaching its final stage, the leaderboards surrounding each green reflected a familiar scenario. Marc Leishman had amassed a two-shot lead after more than 60 holes of golf, and the trophy was within reach.

It’s the same script that played out two weeks ago at TPC Boston, where Leishman fumbled away his lead down the stretch by shooting a back-nine 40. But faced with an opportunity for redemption and with Justin Rose quickly making up ground, the Aussie didn’t blink and instead walked away with a five-shot, wire-to-wire victory at the BMW Championship.

It’s a win that vaults Leishman to fourth in the FedExCup standings, and up to 13th in the newest world rankings. It’s also another stark reminder that his time as one of the more underrated players on the PGA Tour may quickly be coming to an end.

“Backing up that back nine last week at the Dell (Technologies Championship), when the pressure got put on by Rosie, I reacted with birdies,” Leishman said. “Just tried to keep doing my own thing and give myself chances, and managed to roll a couple in there at the end which was nice walking up the last there with a bit of a buffer.”

Leishman started the day with a five-shot lead, one that he revealed after the fact was large enough that he should win – but not large enough to put him out of reach. After Rose birdied No. 14, Leishman's advantage was trimmed to the same two-shot edge he was unable to maintain two weeks ago when Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth raced past him.

This time around, he answered the call with a birdie on No. 15 – and another on the next hole to remove any doubt about the outcome.


BMW Championship: Articles, video and photos


It’s the second win this year for the 33-year-old, who also captured the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He heads into the Tour Championship as perhaps the hottest player on Tour, and he’ll be a key cog for the International Team at the Presidents Cup later this month.

While it’s a somewhat surprising ascent for a player who won just one event in his first eight seasons on Tour, his peers have long realized Leishman’s potential.

“I think he’s a great player, especially I grew up playing amateur golf against him,” said Jason Day. “I don’t think he may have projected himself standing where he is today when we were sitting on a tee back when I was 16 and he was 18 or so. He’s done a tremendous job, obviously, getting to where he is. I think there’s still a ton left in the tank for him.”

To see Leishman sandwiched between two trophies on the 18th green and surrounded by his three children, including daughter Eva born this summer, is a far cry from the depths of 2015 when his wife, Audrey, nearly died from complications tied to sepsis.

But with his wife once again healthy and a new arrival to celebrate, Leishman has found harmony both on and off the course this year – even if it has caused little change to his largely unflappable demeanor.

“He’s a very humble guy, and so I think sometimes people maybe underestimate his drive. But he’s always had that drive,” Audrey said. “He’s always given it 110 percent, but he just has been content to lie low and he doesn’t really feel the need to have all the media stuff. So I think because of that, him flying under the radar, people sort of assume that.”

Leishman is candid about the fact that, while many of his peers set ambitious goals and strive to be the best player in the world, that has never been his aim. He enjoys having a work-life balance, and his off weeks are spent with his growing family and usually far away from the practice range.

“I feel like, with the life I live, that’s probably very hard for me to do that,” he said. “I feel like you have to dedicate your whole life – not your whole life, but you have to work very, very hard. I’m happy doing what I’m doing now with the life I’ve got and the way I’m playing and all that, to be happy with where I am.”

Armed with a wire-to-wire victory against an elite field, Leishman now has plenty to be happy with heading into the season’s final event. His goals may be modest and his tone understated, but make no mistake about it: Leishman deserves every inch of real estate he now occupies among the game’s elite.

Golf does not often afford mulligans, especially at the highest level. But granted another chance to close out a lead coming down the stretch, Leishman this time around left no room for doubt.

“It’s just nice to put four good rounds on the board and in a really big event,” he said. “Backing up what happened last week was probably the most satisfying thing for me.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.