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Rory McIlroy falls just short at Bay Hill as Leishman finishes with a flourish

By Phil Casey

Australia's Marc Leishman produced a brilliant finish to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational as Rory McIlroy's bid for a remarkable victory faltered at the final hurdle.

Leishman carded a closing 69 at Bay Hill to claim his second PGA Tour title by a single shot from Americans Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman, with McIlroy a shot further back alongside England's Tyrrell Hatton.

An eagle from 50 feet on the 16th gave Leishman the lead for the first time and the 33-year-old, who lost a play-off for the Open Championship in 2015, scrambled pars on the last two holes to set the clubhouse target on 11 under par.

Kisner was unable to find the birdie he needed to force a play-off in the closing stretch, while Hoffman bogeyed the 17th but birdied the last to secure a share of second.

McIlroy had been four over par after two holes of his second round and despite a flawless 65 on Saturday, started the final day five shots off the lead shared by Kisner and Hoffman.

But by the time he had recorded his seventh birdie of the day on the 16th, the four-time major winner had moved into a share of the lead with the American pair.

However, McIlroy then heard the roar as Leishman made his unlikely eagle on 16 and, knowing he needed to make a birdie, charged his first putt four feet past the hole and missed the return.

"I thought going out today if I could shoot anything in the 60s it would be a good score," McIlroy admitted after signing for a closing 69.

"Obviously I was trying to shoot a couple lower than that but overall played well, I'm really pleased with how I went this weekend and can take a lot of positives from it."

Speaking about the 18th, McIlroy added: "I saw Leishman eagle 16 so I thought I really needed to try and hole it and I was overly aggressive with it and missed the one coming back, but it's been a good week and if anything, to be one over after two rounds and come up like this, it's a great weekend.

"I can't complain too much. It would have been nice to give it a bit of a better go, I had two chances on 17 and 18 there, but hopefully I can get back up on the horse next week and try and get a win at the (WGC-Dell Technologies) Match Play."

McIlroy will have the consolation of moving to second in the world rankings when they are updated on Monday, while Leishman's victory secures his place in the Masters.

Leishman finished fourth at Augusta National in 2013, but withdrew from the year's first major championship in 2015 when his wife Audrey fell seriously ill with toxic shock syndrome.

"It's amazing," said Leishman, whose previous PGA Tour victory came in the Travelers Championship in 2012. "It's been quite a while and my son keeps reminding me - daddy why don't you ever win the trophy?

"I've been trying extra hard for him and it was great today that he was here and a special day with everything honouring Mr Palmer."

Tournament founder and seven-time major winner Palmer died aged 87, in September and Leishman added: "You always want to win to honour the greats and it's a special year this year.

"It would have been great if he was up there standing on the back of the green but to win at his place is a dream come true."

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