Victoria’s Marc Leishman might not have been able to successfully defend his Travelers Championship at the weekend but he says his win in the US PGA Tour event last year gave him the boost he needed to compete with the best on the elite stage.
Leishman in April finished in a tie for fourth behind Adam Scott in the US Masters and now both he and the golfing public have raised expectations.
This year’s event was won by American Ken Duke, who finished 12 under the card with Leishman down the board in a share of 30th with fellow Victorian Cameron Percy.
One of the significant factors of the event was that it finally produced positive signs from Stuart Appleby, who has had a long struggle with form.
Appleby fired four rounds in the 60s to finish seven under par in a tie for ninth as the leading Australian.
The Warrnambool-based Leishman last year shot 62 in the final round to burst through for his debut win in the US, although he had to endure a nervous wait before it was confirmed.
Leishman says the past 12 months have demonstrated that his victory has elevated him to a new level.
"That definitely gave me confidence to know I was good enough to win and to play good under the pump," he said.
"My swing held up under pressure here, and at The Masters I was in contention all week, and it held up there. So I think the confidence that this tournament gave me last year, having the round I did on Sunday…definitely helped me for The Masters and it gave me a bit more confidence, I think."
Leishman says he is now viewed in a different light on the tour and the new-found recognition he enjoys helps his game.
"There is a little bit more attention. People know my name now. Like no one ever knew who I was (before the win). 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.
He described the past week in Cromwell, Connecticut as "A little bit different."
"You’ve got people that look at you differently knowing that you did win last year," he said. Last week with Webb (Simpson, the 2012 US Open champion), you look at him, and, hey, he won it last year, and it’s the same with every week. You know who won it last year.
"It’s a bit of a different feeling. You’re probably expected to do a bit better than what I would normally be expected to do from others, just because of what I did last year."
Leishman says the other key factor he found after his breakthrough is that he is now often grouped with other winners.
"I think obviously the pairings change. You go, rather than staying with the category I was in, you go to playing with guys that are basically all winners. So you go to 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. So that is a good thing," he said. The US Tour is producing more and more first time winners and Leishman says that can be attributed to a variety of factors.
The US Tour is producing more and more first time winners and Leishman says that can be attributed to a variety of factors.
"There are a lot of great players coming out of college. Guys are more prepared. I think people are starting to work with mental coaches earlier, so they have the belief that they’re good enough to win earlier than what they might have done if they hadn’t been working with those guys.
"I think it’s just the development that we get. I know in Australia, there is not a whole lot that you’re not prepared for when you get on tour," he said.