In a final hour that featured four players having at least a share of the lead, Leishman is the only one who didn't blink.
His final act was a pitch-and-run from 45 yards away on the closing hole at Bay Hill that ran out to within three feet. He calmly made the par putt for a three-under-par 69 and one-shot victory over Kevin Kisner and Charley Hoffman.
The only thing missing was a handshake from the King. This was the first Arnold Palmer Invitational since the September death of the beloved tournament host.
"You see guys win and he's waiting there on the back of the green," Leishman said. "And to not have that is obviously very sad, but to win here is just a dream come true."
He had a 30-foot birdie putt to tie for the lead on the 18th, and after seeing that Leishman had made eagle on the 16th, gave it a good run. The putt went 8 feet by and three-putt for a 69 to finish two shots back.
"These things happen," McIlroy said. "But I'm pleased with how I went. Ten under for the weekend around here is good scoring, and I can take a lot of positives from it going into next week."
Kisner and Hoffman also squandered away their chances.
Kisner had a three-shot lead at the turn, but failed to made another birdie the rest of the way. His lead began slipping away when Kisner missed the green on the par-5 12th with a sand wedge, pitched over the other side of the green and took bogey. He closed with a 73.
"I had it right there in the palm of my hand to win, and I didn't get it done," Kisner said.
Tyrrell Hatton of England shot 71 to tie for fourth with McIlroy, while Valspar Championship winner Adam Hadwin closed with a 71 to finish three shots behind.
Leishman finished at 11-under 277 and earned a three-year exemption on the
"Mr. Palmer was an awesome guy who I was lucky enough to meet a few times," Leishman said. "To honor him was huge. And it was the first time I won a tournament with my family here. It's all come together."
Nordqvist wins Founders Cup title
Anna Nordqvist caught up with some college friends — and left everyone else behind on another hot afternoon at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup when the 29-year-old former Arizona State player shot a four-under 68 to hold off fellow major champions Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis and In Gee Chun by two strokes in record 96-degree heat at Desert Ridge.
Nordqvist finished at 25-under 263, two strokes off the
Nordqvist won her seventh LPGA Tour title and first since successfully defending the ShopRite
Lehman shoots 66 for Tour Champions win
Tom Lehman took advantage of senior newcomer
Two strokes behind Stricker with three holes to play, Lehman closed with two birdies and a par for a seven-under 66 and a one-stroke victory over playing partner Stricker.
Stricker followed his second-round 63 with a 70. He was trying to become the 19th player to win in his first start on the 50-and-over tour and first since
The 58-year-old Lehman won for the first time since the 2015 SAS Championship, finishing at 20-under 199 on Omni Tucson National's Catalina Course. He won the 1996 British Open and four other PGA Tour titles.