By Tony Jimenez
TROON, Scotland (Reuters) – Marc Leishman is looking to recreate the weekend magic that catapulted him into contention at St Andrews 12 months ago after battling his way through the field in the British Open on Friday.
One year ago the Australian just about survived the halfway cut before rocketing up the leaderboard with a sparkling eight-under 64 in the third round.
Leishman was the last-day leader at the ‘Home of Golf’ but a bogey at the 16th effectively ended his title dreams and he had to settle for a share of second place behind American winner Zach Johnson.
The 2016 Nedbank Challenge champion in South Africa was consistency personified on Friday, reeling off 16 par figures and two birdies to return a two-under 69 and make amends for the disappointment of opening with a 74 at Royal Troon.
“Hopefully I can do the same this weekend as I did last year,” Leishman told Reuters in an interview after finishing on one-over 143, leaving him 11 shots behind championship pacesetter Phil Mickelson of the U.S.
“You’ve got to play really good golf and hole some putts but there’s no reason why I can’t get a good score and get myself within shouting distance of the leaders,” he said as the gentle waves of the Irish Sea caressed the sandy beaches on the west coast of Scotland.
First, though, Leishman needs to start finding his range with the shortest club in the bag.
“I hit a lot of good putts today, I just need more speed because the greens are a bit slow,” said the 32-year-old.
“I’m either getting them a foot past the hole or they’re not getting to the hole. I’m hitting them on the right line and I haven’t had a three-putt in the first two rounds — it’s nice to keep those off the card.”
Leishman thought he may lose his wife Audrey last year when she developed myopathy, a disease where the muscles cease to function.
ROAD TO RECOVERY
She is now on the road to recovery and her health scare has helped give the golfer a new outlook on day to day matters.
“Her illness put things in perspective for me,” said Leishman who played for the Internationals in last year’s Presidents Cup match against the U.S., his first appearance in the biennial team event.
“When I have a bad day on the golf course it’s not like I’m going to get shot or something, it’s not life or death.
“I’ve tried to take the positives out of what happened to her and one of the positives is that things that are out of my control don’t worry me any more.”
Leishman’s wife has not traveled to the British Open with him and is at their American home in Virginia Beach with their two young sons.
“The last time she came out on tour with me was for last month’s U.S. Open,” he explained. “She’s doing great, she’s got a few issues here and there, but all things considering she’s doing a lot better.
“At night I talk to her and my two boys on facetime. They are almost three and four and I can talk with them now.
“That makes it easier to travel. I try to talk to them a couple of times a day although neither my wife nor me are big phone people, we’re normally on it for three or four minutes and then we’re out of there.”
Leishman was in the same group on Friday as Troon member Colin Montgomerie and ex-world number one Luke Donald.
Brought up in the former port city of Warrnambool in Victoria, Friday’s teeming rain and gusting 15mph winds proved no barrier to Leishman.
“I enjoy this type of golf,” he said. “This is what I grew up with, a heavy wind, and I like the challenge, the imagination you need and the different shots.
“Standing on the first tee this morning the weather was terrible but I was excited.”
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)