ORLANDO | When you’re called to a hospital and told your wife has a 5 percent chance of living after thinking she had a case of the flu, everything else fades to insignificance.

 

That’s what PGA Tour veteran Marc Leishman faced in March of 2015 after his wife Audrey checked herself into a hospital near their Virginia Beach home, while he was at Augusta, Ga., preparing for the 2015 Masters. He withdrew from the Masters, rushed back and was told that his wife and mother of their two small sons was suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome.


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She then went into toxic shock, her organs began shutting down and she had to be put into an induced coma.

With the help of what Leishman said was his wife’s youth and physical fitness and heroic doctors, Audrey Leishman eventually recovered. So it’s only natural that the laid-back Aussie doesn’t sweat little stuff like not following up on his only PGA Tour victory nearly five years ago.

It’s his perspective on life that enables Leishman to play golf with more of a carefree attitude and that served him well on Sunday when he fell behind by as many as five shots, but rallied on the strength of 51-foot eagle putt at the par-5 16th hole at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one shot over 54-hole co-leaders Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman.

Leishman (69) finished at 11-under-par 277. Hoffman faded early and Kisner late as both struggled with 73s.

“It was a wild ride out there,” Leishman said of a course that toughened up with hard, fast greens and increasing wind to bump the field scoring average from 71.83 on Saturday to 73.11. “I played good all week, threw a bit of bad in there but when I did, the putter saved me.”

No kidding. As huge as Leishman’s eagle bomb at No. 16 was, he made a bunch of knee-knockers to keep himself in the tournament, then preserve his lead.

The 16th was the only green he hit in regulation over his final four holes, as he got up-and-down for par with saving putts of 6 feet at No. 15 and No. 17 and 3 feet at No. 18.

Leishman had 10 one-putt greens in the final round, six on the back nine.

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy (69) shot 12-under on the weekend and was in a three-way tie for the lead with Kisner and Hoffman when he stood on the 18th tee. However, he bogeyed No. 18 on a three-putt from 30 feet and dropped into a tie for fourth at 9-under with Tyrrell Hatton (71).

“I made a run,” said McIlroy, who is ranked third in the world. “I played great today, gave myself plenty of chances … I’m pleased with how I went.”

Kisner had to birdie the final hole to force a playoff but he pulled his tee shot left, hit his second shot into a bunker and failed to hole his third shot. He finished second for the fifth time in his career, a resume that includes losing to Rickie Fowler in the 2015 Players Championship.

Kisner’s lone PGA Tour victory remains the 2015 RSM Classic at Sea Island.

“I had it right in the palm of my hand to win and I didn’t get it done,” said Kisner, who had a three-shot lead with 11 holes to play. “Two-over on the back nine is not good enough.”

Leishman’s second PGA Tour title and eighth worldwide earned $1,566,000, the biggest first-place check for a Tour event that is not a major, World Golf Championship or FedEx Cup playoff. He grabbed 500 FedEx Cup points to move from 60th to 11th on the standings.

Leishman also earned a trip back to the Masters, where he was the 54-hole co-leader in 2013 and faded to a tie for fourth.

But everything after his wife’s illness, whether it’s a Tour title or a hug and a kiss, is a bonus.

“It certainly changes your perspective on life, going through something like that,” he said. “I want to do well [at golf] but it makes it less important. It’s not life and death. We’ve been in that situation and it’s not fun. It’s life-changing.”