Date: June 18, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes, Oakmont

Short game magic keeps Leish in frame

Marc Leishman recalled earlier this week a couple of errant shots that cost him last year’s Open Championship, ultimately in a playoff.

Time will ultimately tell, but he might well have found that magical and elusive missing shot in the first round of the US Open.

Having already made some solid saves in his first rain-interrupted 14 holes, the Victorian resumed this morning at one over and used his impeccable short game to stay in touch.

But should his major championship dream come to fruition on Sunday, he’ll remember his third to the tricky ninth, his final hole, for a long time.

From nearly under the lip on the front of two bunkers to a tightly cut pin, Leishman blasted high and soft and then watched delightedly as it trickled back downhill and to rest just 50cm from the target.

The tap-in par left him with a 71 – and in a tournament in which he’s had by his own admission an erratic record, that was music to his ears.

“That’s pretty good for me!” the Warrnambool ace said.

“I played pretty well. Obviously yesterday morning it was pretty tough and then it got easier as the round progressed.

“This morning it was a lot easier, especially around the greens.

“But to get up and down on the 9th there was a real good one to not bogey (my) last.

“I made a good (save) on two, too. There’s a lot of places you can’t hit it on that green and I hit it in probably the worst spot (back-left bunker) and left it (my third shot) in the bunker then got it up and down (also).

“That could easily have been a six or a seven. It was cactus and I had about (30cm) to land it on the second time and landed it there which was nice.

“But I’ve been doing a lot of work on the short game this week – hopefully I won’t have to use it too much. But generally around this place, you do.”

The Presidents Cup star said having confidence with his wedges enabled that to spread through the bag.

“It frees you up a bit with your iron shots into the greens. You’ve just got to miss the really bad spots and I hit it in a couple of really bad spots this round – 13 right is an automatic bogey and then long on two, so to get away with bogeys there is pretty good.

“But the short game is feeling pretty good and definitely the softer conditions are going to make that a little bit easier.”

Leishman said the rain interruptions, which cost more than eight hours on day one and split his round into four sections, was not a factor – and would actually work well for his family life.

“It’s not ideal, but it is part of golf. You play in the summer, especially over here, you are going to have to deal with it,” he said.

“Being laid back helps with that, it is out of our control so I am not stressed about it. I have two boys at home who will keep me amused all day, so that will be fun.

“I am going to make the most of being able to spend the day with them.”