Marc Leishman has a penchant for low scores, but the Australian charted new territory today.
The big Victorian carded his best score on the US PGA Tour, a spectacular 10-under-par 61 to lead the Byron Nelson Classic in its first appearance at the Trinity Forest Golf Club.
Leishman barely put a foot wrong on the fast, bouncy Dallas layout knocking in two eagles and six birdies without a blemish to lead American pair Jimmy Walker and J.J. Spaun by three.
It was largely a good day for a strong Australian contingent, with Cameron Percy (-4), Adam Scott (-4), Matt Jones (-4), Geoff Ogilvy (-2), Robert Allenby (-1) and Rod Pampling (-1) all under par.
Oliver Goss, Stuart Appleby and Aaron Baddeley carded even-par 71s, but John Senden (+1), Steve Bowditch (+4) and Greg Chalmers (+7) all have work to do in their adopted home state of Texas.
But the day belonged to Leishman who, for just the third time in 797 career rounds on the main American tour, hit every fairway.
He began with a laser 218m approach to within a metre on the par-five first to set up an eagle and didn’t let up, carving up the three “long holes” to the tune of five under par, including another 3m putt for eagle on the 14th.
“I was hitting my irons well and hitting every fairway is key around here. The fairways are generous, but if you’re off them, you’re in trouble,” Leishman said.
“But I was hitting the right side of the fairways, then good iron play and obviously I had a hot putter as well, so it’s a pretty good combination for a good score.
The Warrnambool ace said he was happy with his ability to stay in the moment, not letting thoughts of a potential 59 cloud his judgement, even when caddie and great mate Matt Kelly brought it up playing the 18th.
“Matty actually said something to me coming up the last, (but) I didn’t even think about a 59. Every other time I’ve been close to it I have thought about it,” Leishman admitted.
“But with the greens as penalising as they are if you hit a bad shot, you’ve got to be so `on’.
“I didn’t get ahead of myself, which was good – 61, I’ll take that.”
Scott, who has returned to the longer putter after a troubling start to his 2018 season, continued the good form he showed in finishing T11 at the Players Championship last week.
Importantly, the Queenslander poured in six birdies against just two bogeys in his 67 in his quest to avoid US Open sectional qualifying.
The 65th-ranked Scott must return to the top 60 in the world by rankings by either this Monday or June 11 to earn automatic entry into the US Open at Shinnecock Hills next month.