Marc Leishman flies under the radar
Scan through this year’s Open Championship winner predictions and you’re unlikely to find the name Marc Leishman.
That’s nothing new for the laid-back Aussie, who has always been most comfortable flying under the radar.
He heads into Thursday’s first round at St Andrews doing just that after missing three of his last four cuts and not finishing in the top 10 of a PGA Tour event since early January.
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In fact, Leishman hasn’t won a solo event since winning the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2020 (he won the paired Zurich Classic with Cameron Smith in April 2021).
It won’t inspire confidence in Aussies hoping the 38-year-old will be in on the action on Sunday at the Open – but eliminate Leishman at your peril.
For beneath the cheerful façade, a fire fueled by seven years of haunted memories burns.
Only a win at one of the greatest majors of all time will extinguish it.
” I can not wait. I have some kind of unfinished business, I guess, not winning (in 2015) having a good chance,” he said. foxsports.com.au earlier this month ahead of the 150th Open Championship.
In 2015, Leishman stepped onto the first tee at St Andrews in a similar position to this year.
Little was said about his chances in Australian circles, let alone the rest of the world, with Jason Day knocking on the door of his first major at the time, while Adam Scott’s tortured history at The Open was a key talking point.
By the time Leishman left for his third lap, he wasn’t flying so much under the radar as he was completely off the grid.
After opening the rounds of 70 and 73, the then 31-year-old snuck into the weekend one shot under the cut line at par 144, and was nine shots behind leader Dustin Johnson.
It was then that he drastically turned the script around, pulling off an incredible eight-under trick that catapulted him into a shock assertion on the final day.
Leishman raised his hot hand in the fourth round when he shot seven birdies in the first 12 holes.
What happened in the hours that followed still stings Leishman to this day.
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Leishman fired his approach into the 16th green and missed a five-foot putt to save the par that brought it down to 15 under.
That mark was eventually equaled by American Zach Johnson and South African Louis Oosthuizen, who played a four-hole playoff with the Australian.
On the first hole of the playoffs, Leishman suffered the cruel rupture of his ball settling into a fairway divot. He bogeyed while Johnson and Oosthuizen birdied, leaving Leishman two shots back and virtually out of the contest.
Leishman settled for a tie for second place, but the future still looked bright for reasons both on and off the course.
A few months earlier, Leishman’s wife, Audrey, had had only a 5% chance of survival due to an abnormal case of toxic shock and sepsis.
Leishman was preparing to leave golf altogether to raise their two children until, against all odds, Audrey survived after being placed in an induced coma.
“It’s something I think about from time to time, how close I was to winning,” Leishman said. Australian Golf Summary at St Andrews.
“It was a week of what could have been, but I generally rejoice when I think about how lucky I was to be on a golf course.
“When the doctors thought Audrey might not survive, I was going to quit golf to take care of the kids. It was a very strange or bittersweet week for me.
Nonetheless, 2015 remains a big missed opportunity for Leishman, who didn’t come close to winning a major tournament again.
Even so, he is quietly confident of his chances this time around based on the near-miss seven years ago and his experience on a course where knowledge is everything.
“I think knowing the course so well — a pretty big part of golf is being able to read the greens and know where to hit it and where not to hit it — but you have to execute,” Leishman said. foxsports.com.au.
“I think the confidence is, I wouldn’t say super high – you still have to play well – but definitely excited about it.
“Just being close last time, getting back to decent form now, so yeah. Not that I have any expectations, but I certainly think it has the potential to be a good week.
Leishman did not return to St Andrews between the 2015 tournament and this week.
You’re not about to see him stomping the Old Course fairways, pulling daggers and pulling fist pumps. He just doesn’t need that move to find the spark.
Unlike many of his competitors this week, Leishman has contested several competitive rounds on the Old Course at St Andrews, dating back to his days as an amateur. As a professional, this is his third Open Championship at the birthplace of golf.
The ability to shape the shots, use the slopes and set up the right angles on the greens is going to be key.
For Leishman, his upbringing in windy Warrnambool and his experience at St Andrews prepared him better than most.
“I’ve been playing there (St Andrews) for a long time. Just knowing that some parts are slower than they look, some parts are faster than they look – experience definitely helps there,” he said. declared.
“There are a few things I’ve learned in the last two tournaments I’ve played there, but I think I’ve played three before. I’ve played a lot of amateur golf there. I have a lot of experience there.
He added: “I think a lot of people don’t really understand the golf course.
“The first time I played at St Andrews I didn’t like it at all. As I played there I learned more and I really understand it now. I know what they ask you.
“I appreciate that aspect about it. It’s a bit like Royal Melbourne in that regard. When the greens are firm at Royal Melbourne, you look at the position of the pin on the green before you think about your tee shot because you need to be on a certain side of the fairway to then angle the pin to bring it closer and make a birdie putt.
“It’s a cool course in that regard.”
Look further afield and there are more concrete signs – aside from link-up know-how – that make Leishman a potential contender this weekend.
While Leishman has missed three of his last four cuts, the one he did was at the US Open where he finished in the top 15 – his best result to date at the major.
Leishman’s putting was among the best on the PGA Tour this year, ranked 15th.
Of those seen as genuine contenders this weekend, only Rory McIlroy, Sam Burns and Billy Horschel rank higher.
Meanwhile, Leishman’s ranking of 74th for greens in regulation might not seem like much, but considering he’s ranked 140th for driver accuracy, it’s a testament to his ability to pull himself out of trouble, just like its jamming percentage of 62.93.
With a premium on fairway position, not distance, Leishman will be more likely to get the ball closer and let his putt speak.
Former US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy said Leishman was “built for the Open” and was among his favorites of the 11 Australians competing.
“He’s just the kind of guy who gets into this kind of golf,” Ogilvy said on Fox Sports.
“He likes bad weather, likes to play the ball low – he’s naturally a low hitter and shapes the ball well, which is important at St Andrews.
“The putt is difficult in the wind and he grew up in a windy place in Warrnambool, he knows how to putt in the wind and he comes to the Open every year with a good feeling because he has done well there before. “
Leishman debuts at 10:15 p.m. (AEST) in a group with Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson.
AUSSIE DEPARTURE TIMES
All hours AEST
3:35 Min Woo Lee
4:30 pm Lucas Herbert
5:03 p.m. Cameron Smith
6:25 p.m. Brad Kennedy
7:53 p.m.Anthony Quayle
8:36 p.m.Jed Morgan
10:15 p.m. Adam Scott, Marc Leishman
11:15 p.m. Jason Scrivener
12:43 a.m. (Friday) Dimitrios Papadatos, Matthew Griffin