Marc Leishman doesn’t just crash parties. He splinters the door, rides in on a Harley and makes off with the ‘80s mix tape (Google that, kids) and all the deviled eggs.
No one saw him coming to East Lake this week as one of the Favored Five in the Tour Championship (the top five in FedEx Cup points can win the $10 million bonus by winning the tournament – everyone else needs a little help). All the big names and top-ranked players had assumed that position.
Then Leishman unleashed an opening-round 62 upon the BMW Championship Thursday. And backed that up with three more stupidly below-par rounds to win the thing Sunday by five strokes, a margin that commanded no one to turn off football for even a moment to watch golf.
The top layer at East Lake is largely a Who’s Who in pro golf: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. A rich tapestry of playing personalities have lined up the big finish at Bobby Jones’ home course.
Then there’s Who’s That: Leishman, just dominating a powerful 70-player field this weekend and turning the 18th green into a day care center Sunday as he celebrated his third career PGA Tour victory with his wife and three children.
That’s a scene that never can be replayed too often, considering that just two years ago Audrey, his wife, very nearly died due to toxic shock.
You can add up the world rankings of the other four members of the top five, and the total (12) is still nearly half that of Leishman’s (22).
At 33, Leishman’s not a young hotshot like the rookie Rahm.
He owns no major titles as do Spieth, Johnson and Thomas.
But he sure enough bounced the world’s No. 4 player, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, out of the FedEx Cup top five (his T-47 finish Sunday knocked Matsuyama down three places to seventh in points). And the Australian who lists surfing and cricket as his two great interests, made mint jelly of the rest of the field.
Among the notable omissions from this week’s elite 30-player Tour Championship field:
Defending champion Rory McIlroy, becoming the eighth of the last 10 Fed Ex Cup champions to miss out on a return to Atlanta.
Phil Mickelson, whose eagle chip on No. 18 Sunday grazed the hole, but came up one stroke short of climbing into the top 30.
Four players who began the next-to-last playoff event inside the top 30, but fell out at the BMW: Henrik Stenson; Louis Oosthuizen, Bill Haas and Brendan Steele.
Among those who will be playing at East Lake this week:
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who got too much air time Sunday with a long rules back-and-forth on the final hole. His 2-under 69 finished off a nine-place jump in Cup points to 25th.
And three players who began the BMW out of the top 30 but climbed back in with their last chance: Tony Finau (from 39th to 24th in a week), Xander Schauffele (from 32nd to 26th) and Patrick Cantlay (from 41st to 29th).
Rickie Fowler needed a birdie on the closing hole Sunday to crack the top five. Instead, he remained sixth in points. Not to worry – that’s the spot McIlroy, most dramatically, won from last year. So, still beware the guy in Sunday orange.