Marc Leishman wins BMW Championship, sets tournament record at 23 under – USA TODAY

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — For years Marc Leishman flew under the radar as he took to golf courses across the world, an unassuming, pleasant fellow who rarely was recognized in public and always considered himself an underdog.

“Who is this bloke?” he often heard from the gallery.

Well, the bloke won the BMW Championship on Sunday, and his days of going unnoticed walking through airports, dining in restaurants or shopping in grocery stores could be coming to an end.

The 33-year-old Australian, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year yet remained relatively unknown to golf fans, was hoping to have another quiet walkabout in the final round of the third event of the FedExCup Playoffs after taking a five-shot lead through 54 holes by shooting 62-64-68.

But he made things interesting with some sluggish play and saw his lead slip to two shots on two occasions on the back nine. Leishman, however, gathered himself and made huge birdie putts on 15 and 16 and added another on the 72nd hole to win by five shots.

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“I feel awesome about this,” Leishman said about his third PGA Tour title. “It’s a long week when you lead every day. I didn’t sleep with that five-shot lead.”

With a 67, Leishman finished at a tournament-record 23-under-par 261. Rickie Fowler (67) and Justin Rose (65), who twice closed within two shots, tied for second at 18 under. Jason Day (69) finished fourth at 16 under.

In addition to winning $1.575 million, Leishman moved to fourth in the FedExCup standings heading into next week’s Tour Championship. If any of the top five players win next week, they automatically capture the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus. Joining Leishman in the top five are No. 1 Jordan Spieth, who closed with a 65 to finish in a tie for seventh at Conway Farms; No. 2 Justin Thomas; No. 3 Dustin Johnson; and No. 5 Jon Rahm, who birdied four of his last five holes to tie for fifth and secure his top-five spot for Atlanta.

Leishman, the 2009 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, will move into the top 15 in the official world rankings.

“Marc’s a world-class player now,” Fowler said. “He’s got the power, he hits it plenty far. He made plenty of big putts today, especially coming down the stretch. He’s definitely not someone you look past. I think maybe that’s been the case in the past, but I know as players, it’s never really been that way.”

Two weeks ago, Leishman took a two-stroke lead into the final nine holes of the Dell Technologies Championship but shot 40 on the inward nine and finished third. He said that finish stung.

“There’s probably a few little scars from two weeks ago,” he said. “And I was just really, really determined to just not let that happen again and try to give myself a big enough buffer that I could get it done. And I got it done. …

“When the pressure got put on, I reacted with birdies.”

Tony Finau finished with a birdie and signed for 64 and finished in a tie for seventh. Yet he left Conway Farms feeling like a winner as he was one of four players to move inside the top 30 who will advance to next week’s Tour Championship, the playoffs finale.

Those who make it to the Tour Championship have a chance to win the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, and each receive one-year exemptions into the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and Players Championship. They also get into two World Golf Championships events — the Mexico Championship and the HSBC Champions. And they get playing spots in the following invitational events — the CIMB Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational, RBC Heritage, Dean & DeLuca Invitational, the Memorial Tournament and the Quicken Loans National.

“Means everything,” Finau said, especially seeing as he will play in his first Masters next April. “I was very nervous. I knew what was at stake. You try your best in those situations to not think about it. But you know, it was definitely in the back of my mind.”

Also moving into the top 30 were Sergio Garcia, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, who needed just 11 events to make the Tour Championship. Moving out of the top 30 were Louis Oosthuizen, 2013 FedExCup champion Henrik Stenson, 2011 FedExCup champion Bill Haas and Brendan Steele.

Oosthuizen finished less than one point behind Jason Dufner, who secured the 30th and final spot.

 

 

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