By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
The cheers have become more personalized. The attention has increased. Those are some of the benefits that have come from Marc Leishman's first PGA TOUR victory. He’s defending that first title at the Travelers Championship.
“You (start) playing with guys that have won big tournaments, and generally they're guys that I have grown up watching on TV that have been out here a long time,” Leishman, 29, said. “There is a little bit more attention. People know my name now. Like no one ever knew who I was. I'd get here and the crowd was like who is this bloke here? And now it's like, "Go, Leish" or "Go Marc." So I think that's cool. But I don't think it's anything out of the ordinary that I wouldn't have expected. It's good. Hopefully I can be a multiple winner soon.”
Leishman was six shots behind co-leaders Brian Davis and Roland Thatcher entering the final round of last year’s Travelers Championship. He shot 62 to capture his first PGA TOUR title in 96 starts and join Greg Norman as the only Australians to win at TPC River Highlands. Leishman is still waiting for that second victory, but he’s had a strong campaign in 2013, posting top-10s at both the Masters (T-4) and THE PLAYERS Championship (T-9).
He held the 18-hole lead at Augusta National before finishing four shots behind winner Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera. Leishman, who qualified for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in 2009, is No. 54 in this year’s FedExCup standings. He’s risen to 62nd in the Official World Golf Ranking after starting the year at 87th.
“My swing held up under pressure here, and at The Masters I was in contention all week, and it held up there,” said Leishman, the 2009 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. “That definitely gave me confidence to know I was good enough to win and to play good under the pump.”
Marc Leishman holed a 22-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole in Thursday's first round.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas -- For the second time in his last three starts on the PGA TOUR, Marc Leishman opened with a bogey-free round.
The Australian shot a 4-under 66 in Thursday's first round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship. At the RBC Heritage last month, he opened with a bogey-free 4-under 67 en route to finishing tied for ninth.
That result is one of three consecutive top-10 finishes Leishman had entering this tournament. So it's no surprise that he started strong on Thursday, especially since he's played well at the TPC Four Seasons Resort.
In four starts here, he has three finishes of top-12 or better, including a tie for third last year.
"I think I'm playing steady, hitting fairways," the Australian said about his recent stretch of good play. "Not all the fairways but hitting a lot of the fairways ... and I think the putting is starting to come around. That's important if you want to be contending."
Leishman had the low round of any player who teed off in the afternoon. He knows that scoring conditions were more favorable in the morning, but he hopes he'll have similar conditions on Friday morning when he tees off.
Asked if he thinks he got the bad end of the draw, Leishman said, "You don't think about it too much, to be honest. You just play your own game and have as good of a score as you can and add 'em up at the end of the day."
One thing he'd like to see, however, is more wind. His hometown of Warrnambool is known as "Windy Warrnambool" for a reason.
"I think the winds are going to be stronger in the week," he said. "Looking forward to that."
Jason Day and Marc Leishman are good picks for one-and-done challenges this week. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
For pretty much all intents and purposes, Jason Day is the play this week. He's 3-for-3 at the HP Byron Nelson Championship with a victory (2010), a solo fifth (2011) and a T9 (2012). His actual scoring average in 12 rounds at TPC Four Seasons is 68.67 with nothing higher than a 72.
Day is also one of just four golfers in this week's field in the top 12 in all-time earnings at the tournament. He ranks fifth. Scott Verplank (first), Vijay Singh (second) and Rory Sabbatini (fourth) are the others, but none resonate in one-and-done formats.
Because of his breakthrough title here three years ago, Day has earned more at this event than any other in his career. With that, I rest my case. He's my pick. Yet, if you're playing from behind and prefer to holster the Aussie for later, pencil in possibilities at the AT&T National and Deutsche Bank Championship.
Meanwhile, Marc Leishman is likely to be a popular play as well this week. With top 10s in his last three starts entering this week and three top 15s in four trips to TPC Four Seasons, his results successfully defend the argument. The 2009 Rookie of the Year has risen to a new level, a rarefied air relative to his career path, so there has never been a better time to piggyback on this Australian. Conservative gamers (i.e. the skeptics) will wonder how long the tidal shift in form will last, but I'd be more concerned if he didn't already make noise at this event.
If you've burned Day and don't want to ride Leishman, the chalk of the week is Jimmy Walker. Consecutive cuts made streaks are chic in mainstream conversation this year, but they've always been a handy reference point for gamers. The San Antonio resident leads the PGA TOUR with 22 straight. This season's set of 13 including four top 10s and another four top 25s. Given his trend, it would require an absolute shutting down of his focus not to continue to pound on the door.
Two-man one-and-dones are advised to give looks to Ryan Palmer and Jordan Spieth.
Last week: Sergio Garcia; T8; $237,500.00
Overall Record: 18-for-20
Top 5s: 5
Top 10s: 10
Top 25s: 14
Missed Cuts: 2
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- For the first time this week on PGATOUR.COM, fans will be able to follow live streaming video of two groups at THE PLAYERS Championship for an entire round each day.
The morning group to watch on Sunday features a couple of major champions in Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel. Both were under par through the first two rounds here but struggled in the third round, shooting 75 and 76, respectively.They teed off at 9:16 a.m. ET.
The afternoon group to follow features Lee Westwood and Marc Leishman. Westwood got off to a shaky start in the third round with two double bogeys in his first four holes, but he rallied with three birdies on the back nine to get within four of the lead entering the final round. Leishman, meanwhile, made three bogeys on the back nine, including one on the 18th. He's trying to become the first Aussie to win here since Adam Scott in 2004. They'll tee off at 1:48 p.m. ET.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla -- Prior to this year, the 18th at TPC Sawgrass had been eagled just twice in the history of THE PLAYERS Championship. That number has doubled in just two rounds this week.
In the first round, Jason Dufner became the third player to accomplish the feat when he holed a 158-yard approach shot. (Watch it here).
Today, Marc Leishman joined the short list when he holed out his 172-yard second shot on the par-4 finishing hole.
Leishman said he was between clubs, a 9-iron and a wedge, but he opted to hit a hard wedge. His caddie said the shot would probably finish in the ditch in front of the green, but that it was better than being long.
Replied Leishman, "Don't worry about the ditch. I'm going to hole it."
Then he did.
"So we had a little bit of a laugh about that."
Day and Leishman each shot 67 and are near the lead at Harbour Town. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Four days ago, an Australian won the Green Jacket for the first time. Could a plaid one be next?
Marc Leishman and Jason Day each shot 67 Thursday at Harbour Town, where they are two shots off the lead of Brian Davis after the opening round of the RBC Heritage.
"Playing last week it felt like there was pressure the whole week," said Day, who finished third at the Masters. "Coming into this week it's pretty laid back, but it is a TOUR event and I want to do well."
A bogey-free round was a good way to start.
"It was pretty boring, actually," Day said. "I like boring rounds, though, right? Boring rounds are pretty nice to have."
The same could be said for Leishman's. He also had four birdies and no bogeys.
"I'm working hard to not have that letdown," said Leishman, who finished fourth last week. "I've got two weeks off after this week. I'm planning on being in contention all week, and then really enjoying my two weeks off."
Neither would be the first Aussie to win here. Four have done it before -- most recently Aaron Baddeley in 2006.
Still, bouncing back from a disappointing finish at the Masters -- both made critical bogeys late to fall short of reaching a playoff -- wasn't easy.
"I just had to come into this week, make sure that I got enough rest and just try to keep that momentum rolling," Day said. "Normally when you see guys playing well, normally it goes in bunches."
Similarly, Leishman said when he arrived at Harbour Town he felt exhausted.
"The energy was really low and legs felt heavy," Leishman continued. "But I actually went in the ocean yesterday and did a bit of stretching. The legs feel a little bit better, feel refreshed."
So is Australia's place in golf it seems.
Earlier in the week, Stuart Appleby said he hoped Scott's Masters win would be a boost to the nation of just 23 million.
The last time Australians won in back-to-back weeks on TOUR? In 2010, when Day and Scott won the HP Byron Nelson Championship and Valero Texas Open, respectively.
"There was a lot of interest back home with the Masters," Leishman said. "With Scotty winning, but with a few of us having a chance to win. It's exciting for the future of Australian golf."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Think Marc Leishman doesn't have a killer instinct? Think again. He bore down and beat his dad for the club championship back home in Warnambool, Australia when he was 13.
"I didn't know what pressure was when I was 13," the good-natured Leishman said.
Well, Leishman is going to find out this weekend at Augusta National as he tries to win his first major championship. The 29-year-old starts the third round one shot off the lead held by fellow Aussie Jason Day.
Leishman, who set the first-round pace with a 66, is 5 under and tied with Fred Couples. He'll play in the penultimate group on Saturday with Angel Cabrera, who rode a 69 in the third round to a tie at 4 under.
Gone are the winds that gusted to 20 mph on Friday. The sun is abundant and the temperature is in the mid-70s. Judging by the early results, Augusta National is yielding birdies again, too.
So can you attack on Saturday, asked the Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.
"As much as you can attack this course," Leishman said. "... There's no reason we can't fire at some pins, make a few birdies and excite the crowd."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- As low as scores were in the opening round, the opposite has been true in Round 2. The Masters has been a bit formulaic that way in recent years with a benign setup on Thursday, a difficult one on Friday, somewhere in between on Saturday and back to a little more birdie-friendly on Sunday.
Only a smattering of players are under par so far and the lead, at least for now, remains at 6 under.
Will anyone be able to make a move this afternoon? Given the aforementioned formula and some difficult pin placements, it seems unlikely.
Here's a look at who to watch for this afternoon:
Marc Leishman, Jose Maria Olazabal, T.J. Vogel, 12:35 p.m.: No Aussie has ever won the Masters -- a fact Leishman is acutely aware of. If that's going to change, he'll need to continue roll the ball like he did on Thursday when he had just 25 putts. Picking the brain of 1999 winner Olazabal wouldn't be a bad idea, either.
Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Steven Fox, 1:30 p.m.: Only three players have successfully defended here and it looks like it will stay that way after Watson opened with a 75. He's going to have to work just to make the cut. Ditto Poulter, who despite feeling this is his best place to win a major, labored to a 76. The last defending champ to miss the cut, by the way, was Mike Weir in 2004.
Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Scott Piercy, 1:41 p.m.: The second round historically has been pretty good to Woods, who has half dozen rounds in the 60s here on Fridays and nine rounds under par. He's only broken 70 once in the last seven years, however. Of course with scoring as difficult as it has been so far, anything under par should leave Woods in good position going into the weekend.
Rickie Fowler, Padraig Harrington, Jason Day, 1:52 p.m.: There was a lot to like about Fowler's opening 68 -- mostly that he had two double bogeys on the card and still shot 4 under. His aggressiveness could work against him, however, given the pin positions. Expect Day, who is 2 under, to stay in contention, too. His game fits this course well and two years ago he tied for second here.
Leishman birdied four of his last six holes Thursday to shoot 66. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- When Marc Leishman played his first Masters three years ago, he found himself thinking about what he'd seen on television when he was growing up in Australia: Fred Couples' ball staying up on the back on No. 12 in 1992, someone chipping in on 11.
"I probably should have came here a few more times before the tournament so I didn't do that," he admitted. "But I didn't, and I found myself doing that during the tournament, which wasn't great."
Neither were his scores: a 72 and 79 to miss the cut. "I just hit it in a lot of bad spots and I think I learned a lot by doing that," he continued.
Thursday, he fared considerably better, shooting a 66 to take the early lead.
"You just put all your mistakes in the memory bank and try and not make them again," Leishman said.
He didn't make many in the opening round this year, making just one bogey and seven birdies, including four in a row on Nos. 13 through 16. The last of those came from across the green, or as Leishman put it, "another zip code."
But the key to his round came before he even teed it up Thursday. During his practice round on Wednesday, Leishman birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 12 and eagled the par-5 13th.
"I haven't been on a run like that ever around this golf course," said Leishman, who is well aware that an Australian has never won a Green Jacket. "It was good to know that it's possible, because it felt impossible last time I was here."