Reigning FedEx Cup Champion Rory McIlroy’s wait to become world number one will rumble on after he had to settle for a top-3 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Seeking a 6th season of multiple titles, McIlroy didn’t get the start he would have wanted at Torrey Pines on Sunday as he bogeyed three of his opening four holes before a string of birdies and an eagle saw him reach the turn in 34 blows (-2).
McIlroy, who would have returned to world #1 with a win, gave it his best shot with six birdies and an eagle in his final round but five bogeys left him on three-under par for the day and 12-under for the tournament, three shots adrift of Australian Marc Leishman.
On the positive side, McIlroy’s relentless run of consistency shows no signs of stopping. He has now finished in the top-3 in each of his starts this season; T3 @ Zozo Championship, 1st @ World Golf Championship-HSBC and now T3 @ Farmers Insurance Open.
However amongst the pines it was fitting that Leishman came out on top, particularly given the devastation of what’s been happening to the forests of his native land. Multiple eucalyptus trees dot the course and the fairways and greens use grass seen everywhere Down Under – no wonder then that the Australian, on Australia Day, felt at home at Torrey.
After more than a decade of trying and two runner-up finishes, the former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year finally connected at Torrey for the win. His seven-under 65 matched the low final round by a Farmers Insurance Open champion since Torrey Pines underwent its first U.S. Open renovation in 2001.
? @MarcLeish‘s birdie on 18 helped lift him to his fifth PGA TOUR victory, and @TigerWoods was there to congratulate him. pic.twitter.com/OTJhU2q1yo
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 27, 2020
He led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting for the week, gaining +8.031 strokes, +4.778 of which came Sunday as he made 151 feet, four inches worth or putts. His caddie Matty Kelly, who has been with Leishman his entire Tour career and grew up in the same small town, called it the best putting performance of his career.
“As good as it gets on the greens,” Kelly said. “He was rolling early and then he just got so determined and honestly I just tried to get out of his way. It was like he was pitching a no-hitter in baseball. You don’t say anything, you just let it happen.”
Leishman needed every bit of it as his driving – which had been stellar for three rounds – deserted him. On Sunday, he was 70th in the field for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee losing -1.235 to the field.
“A bit of extra practice early in the week on the putting green. Kind of had a good feeling, but you never know what your week’s going to be like. I grew up on this grass, I grew up on kikuyu fairways, poa greens,” Leishman said.
“I saw that the guys out front didn’t get off to the best start and then that really got my determination up. I’ve led here early in the last round maybe once or twice and let it slip. I was very determined to not let that happen again.”
“My first few years on the Tour, you’re just hoping to keep your card, just have a job. Once you get that first one … it kind of validates it if you can get two and then you can get more,” Leishman added.
“I didn’t really ever imagine I would be a five‑time Tour winner, to be honest. As a kid you don’t expect this. You dream to be on the PGA Tour one day and all of a sudden to have five victories, it’s a great feeling.
“So I feel lucky. This is a pretty sweet victory just because I’ve come close here a few times. From my first year on Tour I felt like this is a place I could win at and then to finally do it my 12th year on Tour is really satisfying.”
Spain’s Jon Rahm finished a shot back in second after a closing 70 while Brandt Snedeker tied alongside McIlroy in joint third.
Full scoring HERE
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