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Marc Leishman finishes romp at last BMW Championship before its astute move to August

Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Golf

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The BMW Championship ended delightfully Sunday, with no drama.

Marc Leishman took a four-shot lead into the 72nd hole at Conway Farms and barely even practiced his final putt. No plumb-bobbing, no fuss. Leishman stroked in the 18-footer from the fringe, waited for Rickie Fowler to finish and then got bum-rushed by his sons, Harvey, 5, and Ollie, 4.

Leishman is a low-key guy, a distant third in name recognition among his fellow Aussies, the bombing Jason Day and dashing Adam Scott.

He reacted to news that he bettered Tiger Woods' BMW Championship record of 22-under by calling the feat "nice."

Leishman, 33, is built like a former Division II linebacker. He's a genial, non-controversial guy who prefers family time to practicing and mowing his lawn to cardio work.

"I'm not a gym rat at all," he said. "I haven't run in about 10 years."

He won only once on tour until this season. He switched drivers, won at Bay Hill in March and dominated this week, a wire-to-wire finish with scores of 62-64-68-67. He was Tom Brady on Sunday. The rest of the field was the Bears.

"Marc's a world-class player now," Fowler said. "He's got the power, hits it plenty far. He's definitely not someone you look past. Maybe that's been the case in the past."

There was a moment Sunday -- OK, longer than a moment -- when it seemed that Leishman would be overshadowed again.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia needed a decent score on No. 18 -- a bogey 6, as it turned out -- to finish in the top 30 in FedEx Cup points and advance to next week's lucrative Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Garcia hit his second shot into the stream that protects the green. He then spent more than 15 minutes consulting with a rules official and debating where he should drop or whether he should purposely whack the ball into a rock and hope for a friendly ricochet.

"How much time can you take?" analyst Johnny Miller asked during NBC's coverage. "This is backing up the whole back nine."

Said Garcia: "For sure I was feeling bad for the people behind me, but I didn't want to do anything wrong."

Surveying the bizarre scene, Phil Mickelson joked he could relate to the patience required of his own playing partners over the years. And he cracked that the delay was good for him: "I needed that extra 38 minutes to read that putt."

Leishman finished five shots better than Fowler and Justin Rose in what could be the last BMW played at Conway Farms for some time -- and the last BMW ever played in the Chicago area in September.

An astute calendar shift promises to move the Players Championship to March, the PGA Championship to May and the FedEx Cup playoffs to August.

That means that when the BMW Championship returns to the area in 2019 -- touching down at famed Medinah No. 3 -- it won't have to compete with kids being in school (Thursday-Friday), college football (Saturday) and the Mitch Trubisky era (Sunday).

"The event is great right now," said Western Golf Association President John Kaczkowski, "and if we're fortunate enough to still be running it (beyond 2019), it will be even bigger and better. If you had the opportunity to own August, why wouldn't you want to do that?"

Rose said a move to August would be great, with tour officials and sponsors reasoning that fans "will be sitting on the couch for the next 16 weeks."

Those who watched the Bears on Sunday missed a historic performance by Leishman.

It was better than "nice."

(c)2017 Chicago Tribune

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