Marc Leishman has found himself very quickly at a key stage of the WGC World Match Play Championship.
The red-hot Victorian, fresh from a win in last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, breezed past former world No.1 Lee Westwood 3&2 today in his opening match in Austin, Texas.
And, tragically, given the withdrawal of his good mate Jason Day who has withdrawn from their four-man group to help his mum fight cancer, Leishman’s next match could be pivotal.
A win tomorrow morning against Pat Perez – who took the point today when Day conceded mid-match – will effectively seal the group result for Leishman, who had been scheduled to play Day on day three.
Each of Day’s opponents will be given a point as if they’ve won, so a Leishman win against Perez will mean he’ll advance 3-0 from their group.
Leishman admitted his confidence level was “pretty high” after his win at Bay Hill, his second on the US PGA Tour.
“I’m feeling good about my game. But golf’s a funny game and things can jump up and bite you when you think you’ve got it under control,” he said with customary smile.
“I certainly can’t get complacent … I’d like to play like this for as long as I possibly can, I’ve just got to keep doing the right things and keep making birdies.”
The Victorian opened with a birdie after a terrific approach inside 1m against Westwood and led the rest of the way.
The world No.32 had his irons going, hitting 14 of 16 greens and his only bogey was a three-putt at the fourth, but even that didn't cost him as Westwood also bogeyed.
Leishman said he’d only played nine practice holes on Tuesday (American time) as he dealt with all the post-victory commitments.
“It was pretty flat, (my) energy wasn’t real high,” he conceded.
“But I guess it’s a good thing that once you’re on the golf course and in the heat of battle that you can get up and play some decent golf.
“I’m happy to get a win on the board against a great player like Lee.”
There were two big upsets on day one with world No.6 Jordan Spieth going down 4&2 to Japan’s Hideo Tanihara , the 54th seed and Danish veteran Soren Kjeldsen (seeded No.62) taking down world No.2 Rory McIlroy 2&1 in a high-quality match.
Shane Lowry (seeded No.53) had a chance for a third big upset before he three-putted the final green to halve his match with seventh seed Sergio Garcia.