SAN DIEGO — Marc Leishman realized he had a two-shot lead as he stood over a six-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines. He also knew Jon Rahm was the only one who could catch him.
That made his final birdie all the more important.
It turned out to be the winner Sunday in the Farmers Insurance Open, much to Rahm's surprise.
Leishman shot 31 on the front nine to seize control, came up with three big par saves on the back nine and closed with a birdie for a 7-under 65 and a one-shot victory.
"If I wasn't to win, I didn't want it to be because of me," said the 36-year-old Australian, a PGA Tour winner for the fifth time. "I wanted it to be because someone made a run, which Jon did. I'm just lucky that he didn't do it a hole earlier."
Rahm played so badly at the start — two bogeys and a double bogey through five holes — that he started firing away, and few players are more dangerous in a shootout. The 25-year-old Spaniard made an eagle and three birdies over a five-hole stretch to at least have a chance.
His one mistake, aside from a bogey on the 15th hole, was not knowing the score. He stuffed his tee shot on the 16th to eight feet from the cup, and he went after the pin on the 17th to five feet out for birdie, drawing him to within two shots. Leishman had finished by then at 15-under 273.
"After I made that putt on 17, I never looked at the scoreboard," Rahm said. "So as far as I was concerned, I was one back. With a birdie, I was going to be in a playoff."
It might not have changed anything. Rahm hit the green on the par-5 18th, and it went to the top ridge — the pin was on the lower level in a bowl. He was in the same spot from where he made an eagle in 2017 that secured his first PGA Tour title.
His putt died to the left and short. His caddie told him, "Good try."
"I'm like, 'What do you mean? We're in a playoff.' He's like, 'Nope, he birdied 18.' And I didn't hear any roars or anything, so I just assumed he parred," said Rahm, who closed out a 70. "Again, even if I hit the right speed, that putt doesn't go in. It was left of the hole, so it doesn't matter. But still, it's just a sour feeling."
Rory McIlroy, needing a victory to return to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking, started three shots behind in the final group and opened with two straight bogeys. He missed a short birdie attempt on the third, then pulled his tee shot into the hazard and had to scramble for bogey.
Much like Rahm, he stayed in the mix by playing his last five holes on the front nine in 5 under. McIlroy couldn't make up enough ground, shot a 69 and tied for third with Brandt Snedeker (68).
Tiger Woods, trying to take sole possession of the PGA Tour record for career victories with his 83rd, never got anything going. He had to settle for a 70 and tied for ninth, six shots behind.
Woods and Kobe Bryant began their pro careers the same year. Only after the round did Woods learn the 41-year-old retired NBA star had died in a helicopter crash about 30 minutes north of Los Angeles.
"I didn't understand why they were yelling, 'Do it for Mamba' on the back nine," said Woods, who called it "one of the most shocking, tragic days I've ever been part of."
Baylor School graduate Luke List closed with a 69 to tie for 36th at 4 under, and fellow former Red Raiders standout Harris English (75) tied for 71st at 3 over.
Australian pride, part II
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Lucas Herbert wasn't home for Australia Day this year.
He still found a way to make the holiday special for himself and his country.
The 24-year-old Aussie captured his first professional title, beating South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout on the second hole of a playoff to win the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic after a wild final round.
Herbert rolled in a birdie putt from two feet on the 18th on his third trip up the par-5 final hole at Emirates Golf Club, doing so after Bezuidenhout failed to get up and down from the back of the green for his own birdie try.
He dedicated his victory to the people back home battling unprecedented wildfire crisis.
"Obviously there's some pretty awful stuff happening right now in Australia with the fires," he said.
"Everyone around the world is behind us, and hopefully we can keep fighting harder than what I did on the first playoff hole. That's nothing compared to the firefighters and volunteers putting out the fires. Sending all my love back home and hope everyone is well."
Bezuidenhout and Herbert each shot a 4-under 68 to come from six shots behind after 54 holes to finish regulation at 9-under 279, two strokes clear of three players: Spain's Adri Arnaus (70), South Africa's Dean Burmester (72) and England's Tom Lewis (74).
American golfer Bryson DeChambeau, seeking to repeat as tournament champion, finished with four straight bogeys to drop out of contention and wound up four shots off the lead after a 76.
Bezuidenhout, who bogeyed the 72nd hole after spinning his approach into the water, had the advantage in the first playoff hole when Herbert pushed his second shot into the water guarding the green.
Herbert chipped his fourth shot from the drop zone to inside two feet, however, and made an unlikely par. Bezuidenhout left his second shot deliberately short but couldn't get up and down, taking the playoff back down the 18th.
This time, Herbert's long second shot was excellent, settling 20 feet from the cup. A two-putt finish was enough to win an event where he received a two-shot penalty last year for improving his lie in a bunker.
Earlier, Swedish golfer Sebastian Soderberg ran between shots — forcing his caddie to do the same — to post the fastest round in European Tour history, at just 97 minutes, while shooting a 3-over 75.
"I thought it would be a fun thing to do," Soderberg said, "and I didn't necessarily think it would hurt my game too much."
Late birdie is big
BOCA RATON, Fla. — Madelene Sagstrom won the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio for her first LPGA Tour title, making a birdie on the par-3 17th hole to tie to regain the lead and winning with a par on the final when Nasa Hataoka missed a three-foot putt there.
Sagstrom closed with a 2-under 70 for a 17-under 271 total at rain-softened Boca Rio Golf Club.
"I put something on the Instagram in the beginning of the week, saying I'm determined that 2020 is going to be the best season yet. I didn't know it was going to be this good right away," the 27-year-old former LSU player from Sweden said. "But no, I have worked really hard over many years now, and I think that the biggest change or the biggest journey I have had is within myself and my mental game."
Hataoka shot a 69. The 21-year-old Japanese golfer, a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour, had birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 to take the lead before her disappointing finish.
"Missing the win gives me more motivation to keep on going for the next many tournaments coming," said Hataoka, who also finished second last week in the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, losing to Mexico's Gaby Lopez on the seventh extra hole in a Monday finish.
Sagstrom bogeyed two of the first five holes Sunday, then rebounded with birdies on Nos. 8, 10 and 11, chipping in on 10. After opening the tournament with a 72, she shot a career-best 62 on Friday to grab a one-stroke lead, then doubled her advantage Saturday with a 67.
"It doesn't matter how you start," said Sagstrom, a three-time winner on the developmental Symetra Tour in 2016, when she won awards as that circuit's top rookie and top player overall. "If you just continue fighting, things can go your way. And I just told myself, `Keep fighting, keep fighting.'"
American player Danielle Kang finished third at 15 under after a 69 in which she parred the final eight holes. France's Celine Boutier (70) was fourth at 13 under, with South Korea's Sei Young Kim (73) fifth at 11 under.