Planet Golf — 25 June 2012 by Bob Sherwin
Surprise, surprise. Leishman wins

CROMWELL, Conn. – When the day started, Marc Leishman was no where near the lead in the Travelers Championship, tied for 20th, six strokes back.

Even after he shot a bogey-free 8-under 62 – matching his career-best round – it would be hours before anyone figured he could be the winner. He finished his round at 3:39 p.m. local time and the last putt was dropped at 6:01 p.m., a bogey 5 by Roland Thatcher, who needed a birdie to tie.

As it turned out, Leishman, who had been hanging out at the practice range for a couple hours, had done enough. No one could catch him as he earned his first career victory.

“I didn’t think it was going to be enough. Golf is a funny game, a really funny game,” said Leishman, whose 62 was the lowest final-round score by a champion on the PGA Tour this season.

Bubba Watson, this year’s Masters champion, finished in a tie for second at Charley Hoffman at 13-under 267.

Hoffman seemed headed for victory but blew it on the 18th. He put his second shot in a green side bunker than hit it out too long. He two-putted for a bogey.

“When it’s said and done, obviously a bad finish and a bad taste in my mouth, but you learn from it,” Hoffman said. “Any time you put yourself in contention, you learn from that.”

Watson drew into contention with four birdies on the front nine but did more scrambling for par than putting for birdies on the back nine. He put two balls into the water on the back nine.

“Just didn’t finish it off on the back,” Watson said. “I made my run and just didn’t kind of really have anything after that.”

It was the first victory for Leishman, a 28-year-old Australian, in 96 PGA Tour starts. He joined the Tour in 2009 and was named rookie of the year.

Besides the $1,080,000 winner’s share, the victory did so much to bolster Leishman career going forward. He earned a two-year exemption on the Tour through 2014. He’s eligible for the ‘majors’. He moved from 81st to 23rd on the FedEx Cup standings. He also moved from 87 to 27 on the money list, now with more than $1.7 million.

Here are some other player notes:

Marc Leishman

    • Leishman is the ninth player (10 wins) in his 20s to win on Tour in 2012, the third consecutive one.
    • He’s the second Australian to win the Travelers Championship (Greg Norman/1995).
    • Five of the last seven winners of the Travelers Championship have been first-time Tour champions — J.J. Henry (2006), Hunter Mahan (2007), Bubba Watson (2010), Fredrik Jacobson (2011), Marc Leishman (2012).
    • Leishman has made 13 of 15 cuts this season on Tour. His only other top 10 was third at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Charley Hoffman

    • Hoffman’s only other top-10 finish this season was at the RBC Heritage (T8). He has made 13 of 17 cuts this season.
    • He missed the cut in his previous tournament, The Memorial, then took two weeks off before the Travelers..

Roland Thatcher (who tied for fourth at 12-under 268)

    • It was Thatcher’s first top 10 of the season.
    • He had made just three of 11 cuts this season.
    • In 2010, Thatcher entered the last event of the year at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic at No. 179 on the money list and in need of a solo second-place finish to get inside the top-125. He finished solo second and finished No. 122 on the money list to earn his Tour card.
    • Thatcher played on the same college team, Auburn, as Jason Dufner, who has won twice on the Tour this season is the FedEx Cup leader, and seven-time Tour winner John Huston.

Tournament notes:

    • Hunter Mahan, in the day’s first group off, shot his personal-best round on the Tour, a 61. He shot a 62 on six different occasions. Mahan was in last place (T68) entering the final round and moved to T11.
    • Rory Sabbatini (T18) recorded a hole-in-one on No. 16 with an 8-iron from 161 yards in the final round. It is his first hole-in-one on Tour. He won a 18-karat gold Rolex watch valued at $27,650. Earlier in the week at Operation Shower, Sabbatini’s wife Amy surprised four military moms-to-be expecting twins whose spouses are deployed members of the U.S. Navy, Naval Submarine School and Connecticut Army National Guard by announcing that she would cover airfare for the moms-to-be to fly their moms in for the birth of the babies.
    • U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson (66-69-68-71) streak of eight consecutive rounds in the 60s ended today with a final round 71. He finished T29.
    • Defending champion Fredrik Jacobson finished T8. He was trying to join Phil Mickelson (2001-02) as the only players to successfully defend a title at the Travelers Championship.
    • Tim Clark (T4) records his first top 10 of the season and first overall since the 2011 Sony Open in Hawaii (T2). He had seven top-10 finishes in 2010.

Lang survives a four-player playoff

It took Brittany Lang seven years and three playoff holes to capture her first LPGA title Sunday at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Waterloo, Ontario.

The 26-year-old Texan defeated Chella Choi, Inbee Park and Hee Kyung Seo in a three-hole, sudden death playoff. She had an opportunity to win the inaugural event in regulation, but missed a short birdie putt that forced the four-way playoff.

Choi and Seo were eliminated after the first two holes. Lang then dropped in a birdie putt on the three playoff hole to beat Park, who missed her birdie putt.

I can’t believe it took me seven years to win a tournament out here,” Lang said. “I hadn’t been that good under pressure and I’m getting better, and I’m so thankful that it happened this week and I’ll only get stronger from here.”

Lang, who had never before been in a Tour playoff, made birdie on each of the three playoff holes. She did not make a bogey in either in the third or final round and carded just two bogies on the week.

“They made a few mistakes coming in, so I finally got pretty close to them and made

a good putt on 17,” Lang said. “And then I was just extremely nervous on the last hole to make that putt in regulation and it was just, my hands were shaking, it wasn’t a good putt, but I gathered myself. And it was a really good experience for me to have that playoff go on that long because it was just good to be in the hunt and in the thick of things and it was a good practice for me.”

Her brother Luke was her caddy and she credited him with keeping her calm and focused in the playoff.

“He said to me, ‘just because you’re nervous doesn’t mean you’re going to miss the putt,’ ” she said.

She picks up a $195,000 winner’s check. She also earned an all-inclusive stay for two at a Canyon Ranch resort.

“I wish my parents were there. I owe everything to them, so I wish they were here,” she added. “But to have Luke here and my friends, they stuck around, it’s pretty cool.”

Calcavecchia a big winner

Mark Calcavecchia’s 8-under-par 64 tied the competitive course record at the La Vallee du Richelieu GC Vercheres Course as he handily won the Champions Tour event, the Montreal Championship, by four strokes over Brad Bryant.

It was the second Champions Tour victory for Calcavecchia. His first win was during the first year on the Tour, last season, when he won the Boeing Classic near Seattle. The win came in his 48th start on the Tour.

Victory came essentially on the par-5s. Calcavecchia was 5-under on the par-5 holes Sunday and 8-under on the par-5s for the tournament.

Bryant’s final-round 7-under-par 65 was somewhat overshadowed but he continues to enjoy an impressive year despite battling a foot problem. Bryant already has eight top-10 finishes, three more than he had in all of 2011. Bryant also led all players with 18 birdies, one more than Michael Allen.

Tournament/Champions Tour notes:

    • With his victory, Calcavecchia won for the third time as a pro in Canada. His first win came at the 1997 Greater Vancouver Open and eight years later he added a second victory at the 2005 Bell Canadian Open.
    • Craig Stadler finished seventh, his best showing since he was sixth at the 2009 Boeing Classic.
    • Calcavecchia’s victory marked the21st consecutive event that the tournament champion has come from the final group.
    • A birdie on No. 18 allowed Michael Allen to finish T5, but more importantly, it allowed him to pick up 79 points in the Charles Schwab Cup race. That moved him into first place on the season-long race. Allen now has 1,120 points, five more than Bernhard Langer. Tom Lehman is third with 1,046 followed by John Cook (789) and Roger Chapman (756).
    • Defending champion Cook finished T15, while Larry Mize, the 2010 winner, finished T20.
    • Canadian Claude Tremblay made the first hole-in-one in tournament history when he aced No. 13 with a 19-degree hybrid from 224 yards in the opening round.

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 44th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. He won't win the club championship any time soon with his 14 handicap and default-swing slice but he does have a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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