It was precise an approach shot as you could hope to see, and even though he didn’t believe it at the time, it was the sign that Australia’s Marc Leishman would go on to march to a six-stroke victory in the $6.5-million Nedbank Golf Challenge.
He used his long, languid swing to deposit a sand-wedge approach three metres past the cup at the par-4 13th hole, and the ball spun back towards the flag as if being pulled by a piece of string. It stopped just a fraction from the hole, and the tap-in birdie was probably enough to snuff out any remaining faint chance Sweden’s Henrik Stenson had of chasing him down.
“I definitely didn’t think I clinched it then,” he said. “But you never know with golf. Probably when the putt went in on 16 – that’s when I knew that I’d have to do something really dumb to lose it from there.”
The victory brought a tumultuous 2015 to an end on an appropriately high note after things had threatened to become awful in April: His wife Audrey was hospitalised with toxic shock syndrome while he was preparing for the Masters.
He spend 96 hours at her bedside, and although she beat the odds and survived, she’s still not entirely well. And then he lost in a four-man play-off in the Open Championship.
“I was going to be pretty happy to have this year to be over with, to be honest,” he said. “Obviously, Audrey got very sick, and I lost an uncle who I was very close to. Obviously The Open was good, but disappointing at the same time. It wasn’t easy, but this just tops off what was not a great year. I hope it’s a springboard for big things next year.
Leishman closed with a 67 at Sun City for a 19-under-par 269 aggregate, with Stenson second on 275, England’s Chris Wood third on 279 with defending champion Danny Willett, France’s Victor Dubuisson,, Branden Grace and American Robert Streb sharing fourth place on 280.