Marc Leishman fired a final-round 65 at TPC Kuala Lumpur to claim victory at the 2018 CIMB Classic by five strokes.
Leishman entered Sunday’s finale holding a share of the lead with playing partners Shubhankar Sharma and Gary Woodland, but after four-straight birdies on Nos. 2-5, followed by two more at the turn (Nos. 9 and 10), the 34-year old Aussie pulled well ahead of the pack.
A lone bogey on No. 13 by Leishman was offset by two more gains on Nos. 16 and 18, en route to a four-day score of 26-under par, five shots clear of a threesome at 21-under par.
“Yeah, it was nice today. I got off to a really strong start and then kept it going,” said Leishman, who’s won three of his four PGA TOUR titles over the last two calendar years.
“Yesterday – struggled a little bit on the back nine, there were some tough holes out there, so I was really wary of that and knew that I had to keep my head down and keep playing really hard.
“So it was very nice to get a bit of a lead to come up the last and enjoy it like I did, and to birdie it, that’s something I’ll remember forever.”
Emiliano Grillo opened his final round with a 6-under 30, highlighted by six birdies, and appeared ready to make a serious chase, but the Argentinian closed with an even-par 36 on the back nine to finish T2 at 21-under-par.
“I started playing very well, I shot 30 on the front nine. I was starting the round today saying if I could shoot 7 under it would give me the chance,” said Grillo, who had his best finish (T2) since a T2 at the Northern Trust during his rookie campaign of 2015-16.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play as well on the back nine, but four rounds in the 60s is always good, especially in a place like this.”
Chesson Hadley made two-straight birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 to sign for a 66, joining Grillo and Bronson Burgoon (68) in second-place.
Justin Thomas, the 2015 and 2016 CIMB champion, closed with birdies on Nos. 16, 17 and 18 to post a low-round 8-under 64, good for a T5 finish, alongside Abraham Ancer (65), Charles Howell III (67), Louis Oosthuizen (69), and Gary Woodland (71), at 20-under par.
The win earned Leishman $1,260,000 and 500 FedExCup points, which will move him to No. 2 in the points standings after two events on the new 2018-19 season. He’s also projected to move to No. 16 in the world rankings.
2018 CIMB CLASSIC
FINAL TOP 5
Pos-Player-To Par (Today)
1. Marc Leishman -26 (-7)
2. Emiliano Grillo -21 (-6)
2. Chesson Hadley -21 (-6)
2. Bronson Burgoon -21 (-4)
5. Justin Thomas -20 (-8)
5. Abraham Ancer -20 (-7)
5. Charles Howell III -20 (-5)
5. Louis Oosthuizen -20 (-3
5. Gary Woodland -20 (-1)
Pos-Player-To Par (Today)
10. Shubhankar Sharma -19 (+1)
10. Si Woo Kim -19 (-7)
13. Paul Casey -18 (-4)
13. J.B. Holmes -18 (-3)
13. Stewart Cink -18 (-3)
19. Keegan Bradley -17 (-6)
25. Xander Schauffele -15 (-4)
27. Kevin Tway -13 (-5)
33. Billy Horschel -11 (-2)
39. Jimmy Walkeer -10 (-6)
43. Jason Dufner -9 (-2)
43. Ernie Els -9 (+1)
50. Rafael Cabrera Bello -8 (-6)
50. Branden Grace -8 (E)
59. Davis Love III -6 (-2)
63. Pat Perez -4 (+2)
66. Ryan Moore -3 (-2)
3 QUESTIONS FOR MARC LEISHMAN
1. Marc, CIMB Classic 2018 champion, your fourth PGA TOUR tournament win, the first international and Australian winner of this CIMB Classic. Tell us, how are you feeling right now following your fourth victory?
MARC LEISHMAN: Yeah, I feel unbelievable right now. On Tuesday I got here and I thought I was going to have to call Callaway and get them to leave some more golf balls in my locker, I was hitting my driver a bit sideways. Sorted that out and this is the result. I want to thank Callaway, I want to thank all my other sponsors for giving me what I need and the tools certainly worked this week.
The golf course was amazing. Yesterday started off great and struggled on the back nine, but I think that helped me today. I knew that even though I got off to a good start, I still needed to grind because there’s some tough holes out there. Managed to hit some good shots and this is the result. It’s great to get back in the winner’s circle, excited to be back in Malaysia and leaving with this.
2. Marc, 22-year-old Shubhankar Sharma said it was such an amazing experience to play with you. How important is that as a golfer for you to have that impact on young golfers?
LEISHMAN: Well, I think it’s — I’ve said this before, but I think it’s a lot easier to be a good human than it is to be, I don’t know, to be an ass, I guess. I think that takes a lot of energy.
Shubhankar’s a great lad. I am sure he learned a lot from these past two days and that’s what it’s all about. Sometimes you learn more from the tournaments that you don’t win. I think this is one of the wins where I did learn a lot and that’s not always the case. Yeah, I’m sure he’ll learn and he’s going to go on to big things.
3. Just talking about kids, is going back to Hawaii in January as part of the perks of winning on the PGA TOUR, the Century Tournament of Champions?
MARC LEISHMAN: Yeah, I’m very excited about that. I was actually talking to my wife about that two weeks ago and we booked flights to go back to Australia and we had to book sort of return ones back to America and I just booked them for Maui thinking that I’ll either be playing in the tournament or we’ll go for a vacation there.
Now I’ll be playing a golf tournament, I know Audrey will be very excited, as my kids will be. Hawaii’s an awesome spot, that’s one of my favorite places in the whole world. To be able to play two weeks there at two of my favorite golf tournaments is certainly something to look forward to.
Credit: Getty Images, PGA Tour Media