CROMWELL, Conn. — Marc Leishman shot an early 8-under 62 and won the Travelers Championship for his first PGA Tour title Sunday when Charley Hoffman blew a two-stroke lead.
The 28-year-old Australian began the day six strokes behind the leaders, but made eight birdies and no bogeys, then sat in the clubhouse for over two hours and watched. He finished at 14-under 266.
Hoffman was 16 under heading to the 17th hole, but pushed his tee shot right and into the water. He made a double bogey, and bogeyed the 18th after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
Hoffman closed with a 66 to tie for second with Masters champion Bubba Watson, who shot a 65.
Leishman became the fifth player in seven years to break through with their first tour win at River Highlands, joining Fredrik Jacobson last year, Watson in 2010, Hunter Mahan in 2007 and J.J. Henry in 2006.
Leishman’s 62 was the lowest score in a final round by a champion on tour this season.
“I didn’t think it was going to be enough,” he said. “Golf is a funny game, a really funny game.”
Hoffman seemed to be in command standing on the 17th tee, and still had a chance to win on 18.
He put his tee shot onto a hill to the right and he put his second shot into the bunker. He ran that shot long and missed a 17-foot par putt.
“When it’s said and done, obviously a bad finish and a bad taste in my mouth, but you learn from it,” he said. “Any time you put yourself in contention, you learn from that.”
Watson made a run at the lead on the front nine, with four birdies. But he had to scramble on the back nine, saving par on the 15th after putting his tee shot in the water. He also made par on 17 after hitting his second shot over the water and onto the green from the rough.
“Just didn’t finish it off on the back,” he said. “I made my run and just didn’t kind of really have anything after that.”
“I was just trying to give myself as many chances as I could,” he said. “It was nice to have a couple of tap-in birdies.”
Leishman’s win gave him just his second top-10 finish this season. He didn’t play in Memphis or at the U.S. Open and said he came back after two weeks off refreshed.
“I practiced I think two times in the three weeks,” he said. “It’s been close for a while actually. I just get a little bit streaky with the putter, and I haven’t been lately.”
Roland Thatcher, who was tied for the lead after three rounds, began his day with three bogeys on the first six holes. He seemed like an afterthought, until Hoffman’s collapse. But he made an eagle on the par-5 13th after hitting his second shot within 15 feet of the pin.
He came up 18 with a chance to force a playoff, but put his second shot into a greenside bunker.
“You never want to take the lead going into Sunday and then need two birdies on the last two holes to catch up,” he said.
He and fellow co-leader Brian Davis both shot 70, putting them in a group at 12 under with Tim Clark and John Rollins.
Clark, who won the 2010 Players Championship, had elbow surgery last August and had missed the cut in five of the previous nine tournaments he played this season.
The course record at River Highlands is 60, set last year by Patrick Cantlay as an amateur. The 20-year-old missed the cut this year in his first professional tournament.
Rory Sabbatini finished six shots behind the leader, but took home a gold Rolex after making the first hole-in-one of his tour career. His shot on the 161-foot 16th hole hit and spun left into the hole.
“It felt really good coming off the club,” he said. “It was just a question of having the right yardage. I kind of joked in the middle of the ball flight, and I said, ‘Be the right one and go in the hole.'”
Hunter Mahan shot a career-low 61 and tied for 11th after he came within a stroke of missing the 54-hole cut.
Mahan, in the first pair of the day, joked that he was just trying to play fast and not hold up the field. He opened with five pars before making nine birdies on the final 13 holes.
He missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. His 20-foot birdie putt from the edge of the green on 18 put him at 10-under 270 for the tournament.
“Your adrenaline is pumping more than you are nervous, because nothing really bad can happen,” he said. “I was just trying to hit it close and make a putt.”
Mahan, whose first tour win came here in 2007, needed a 6-foot birdie on 18 Saturday to make the 54-hole cut.
“At that point, you’re kind of like, God, do I want to even make this?” he said. “I’m glad I did.”