Date: September 25, 2009
Author: Sportal and PA Sport

Fine start for Leishman

Rising star Marc Leishman more than held his own against some of the best players in the world in the opening round of the Tour Championship in Atlanta to sit four strokes behind leader Sean O&aposHair. Leishman, the only rookie in the 30-man field this week, made a nervous start in the PGA Tour&aposs annual FedEx Cup finale with two bogeys in his first five holes before recovering to eventually shoot an even-par 70. “It would have been even better to shoot a one-under, but that bogey on the last got me back to even,” Leishman said. “But I feel it&aposs a pretty good day.” The 25-year-old from Warrnambool in Victoria is hopeful of straightening up over the remainder of the tournament after hitting just seven of 14 fairways. “I need to hit more fairways and hole a few putts, and hopefully shoot myself a low number in the next couple of days,” he said. Also at even-par in a share of ninth place is another Aussie, John Senden, who only just scraped into the field in 30th spot on the FedEx Cup standings. But the news wasn&apost so good for Geoff Ogilvy, who shot a disastrous five-over 75 around East Lake to sit dead last after the first round. Ogilvy finished seventh at the Deutsche Bank Championship three weeks ago but showed no sign of that form as he crashed to five bogeys and a double-bogey in a horrible round. The plaudits on the opening day remained with O&aposHair but the American has major winners Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington and Stewart Cink breathing down his neck. O&aposHair holds a one-shot lead over Woods, Harrington and Cink after shooting a four-under-par 66. Yet with not only a $US$1.35m first prize on the line but also a $US$10m bonus to the FedEx Cup standings champion, there is plenty to keep the big guns motivated in Georgia this weekend. As the current standings leader Woods is in pole position in that regard, a win on Sunday for his sixth title of the year also guarantees the mega bonus. O&aposHair, lying seventh in the standings, and Ireland&aposs Harrington, lying sixth, both need a victory and also Woods to finish third or lower, O&aposHair also requiring second-placed Steve Stricker to go the same way as the world No.1. All of the above bar world No.2 Stricker will be happy with their progress in that regard, with Harrington continuing to mine a rich seam of recent form. The three-time major winning Irishman has rebounded from a miserable year disrupted by swing modifications to record five successive top-10 finishes since the start of August. The run propelled Harrington to sixth place in the standings, and he certainly began the right way in Georgia, reaching four-under-par at the halfway stage of his first round on the par-70, 7,154-yard East Lake course. That gave the Dubliner an early share of the lead with O&aposHair, who sank a 56-foot birdie putt at the fourth, with Open champion Cink having already returned to the clubhouse with a three-under 67. Cink had begun the tournament with only a slim chance of landing the big bonus prize from 26th place in the standings but he had been first to hit the front at four under after nine holes in his home state. One birdie followed on the back nine, book-ended with bogeys at the 13th and 15th holes. Harrington&aposs only trouble of the day came at the par-five 15th hole, where he failed to get out of a greenside bunker at the first attempt on the way to his only bogey of the day. Woods had a mid-round wobble following a birdie at the third, hitting bogeys at six and eight before sending down five birdies in the next seven holes to reach three-under. Open champion Cink, who began the tournament with only a slim chance of landing the big bonus prize from 26th place in the standings, had been first to hit the front at four-under after nine holes in his home state, having driven his kids to school on his way to the course. One birdie followed on the back nine, book-ended with bogeys at the 13th and 15th holes and Cink reached the clubhouse with a 67 at three under. Fellow 2009 major winner Lucas Glover, the US Open champion, finished a shot further back with a 68 with South Africa&aposs Retief Goosen and Americans Dustin Johnson and Steve Marino carding 69s. England&aposs Luke Donald, the only other European in the field besides Harrington, carded a level-par 70, to join a large group including Americans Stricker, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson. A win for Woods, Stricker, second in the standings, and Furyk, third, would guarantee them the FedEx Cup, as it would fourth-placed Johnson and fifth place Heath Slocum, who has much work to do to make that a reality after an opening 73. A quadruple bogey eight at the par-four 14th helped send world No.3 Phil Mickelson to a 73. Of the other of the year&aposs major winners, US PGA champion Y E Yang finished at one-over with Masters winner Angel Cabrera a shot worse off following a 72.