By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas -- Earlier this week, Marc Leishman teamed with fellow Aussie pros Jason Day and Nathan Green for a cricket match. The threesome found a few caddies and some other players to join their squad against a local team at a cricket ground in a suburb north of Dallas.
They did the same thing a couple of weeks ago in Charlotte, using the down time before the start of the Wells Fargo Championship to play cricket. Prior to that, the 28-year-old Leishman hadn't not played in an organized game of cricket in at least 12 years.
"Been a long time," he said about his favorite sport back home.
The 65 left him as the clubhouse leader after the morning wave was finished, and left him one stroke off the lead held by Ryan Palmer once the first round was done. More important, it left the 2009 Rookie of the Year winner with some positive vibes about his game.
"Today was a good reward for the work I've been doing the last three or four weeks," said Leishman.
Leishman said he made an adjustment to square up his club face, and has also been fighting some old habits, especially with his posture, which he said had "been a little hunched." His accuracy off the tee has been a problem this year, as he entered this week ranked 177th on TOUR in that category.
But he missed just three of 14 fairways on Thursday. "It's an easy game from the fairway," he said with a smile.
It's also easier when you can post a couple of eagles. He chipped in at the par-4 11th after he nearly drove the green at the hole, which played to 306 yards on Thursday. Five holes later, Leishman produced another eagle at the par-5 16th when his 2-iron from 243 yards left him with a relatively easy 8-foot eagle putt. He had just put the 2-iron in his bag the previous week at THE PLAYERS Championship.
The biggest thing for Leishman, though, is trying to remain patient as he waits to take the next step in his TOUR career.
In 2009, he claimed Rookie of the Year honors, thanks mostly to his performance during the FedExCup Playoffs when he became the lone rookie to reach the final stage, the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. He followed with a solid sophomore season in which posted a couple of top-10 finishes, including a runner-up at the Farmers Insurance Open.
But after a tie for third at the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, Leishman has not been a factor. He hasn't had a top-10 since then, a stretch of 30 starts coming into this week. With Rickie Fowler's win two weeks ago at the Wells Fargo Championship, Leishman is the only past Rookie of the Year winner in the last decade not to have a TOUR win on his resume.
He said Thursday that he found himself started to press last year to end the drought, that he was becoming inpatient. Only now does he feel like he's in a better frame of mind.
"You don't have to play perfect to win," he said. "I'm learning that. I think it takes a fair while to learn that.
"I'm just trying to do what I can to give myself a chance really. I think early in this year and late last year, I was trying to push too hard. Hopefully I can do the right things."