Date: November 22, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Free-flowing Aussies share top billing

If the key to World Cup is team harmony, Marc Leishman and Cam Smith put a downpayment on Australia’s sixth crown today.

Knotted with Korea and England at -10 on a jam-packed leaderboard after a day of hot scoring at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Golf Course, the Australians were as loose as pre-election purse strings afterwards.

Even international newcomer Smith, the early star with a string of front-nine birdies to get the Aussies rolling, found it easy to give his senior teammate a bit of cheek in the post-round media conference.

“I gave Leish a bit of an upper-cut under the ribs after (the fourth hole). I said, `You know, you can turn up any time’,” Smith said with a broad smile.

That summed up the pair’s day superbly. No problems. No niceties. Just rock solid golf with someone always in the hole in the free-flowing fourball format.

And with the three joint leaders closely followed by Malaysia, Belgium and defending champion Denmark at nine under, then Ireland, India, Italy, Sweden, New Zealand and Venezuela all within another two strokes, it was important not to have lost ground.

“I think it was very important for us to get off to a good start,” Leishman said.

“You don't want to be fighting back the whole tournament (and) the scores were pretty good today, it wasn't that easy out there.

“Cam had … his putter going today, which was great, and we combined pretty well. So that's what you have to do in that format. If you get things going the wrong way, especially when the conditions are tough, it can set you behind.

“Hopefully we can keep combining the way we have been.”

Smith, not surprisingly, was in full agreement.

“I think we just combined really well,” the Queenslander said.

“Like Leish was saying, once one of us was in a bit of trouble, the other one just hit the centre of the green, gave ourselves 20, 30 feet and gave ourselves an opportunity at birdie.

“It's just easy to go the other way if you keep making pars and make a couple of silly mistakes (and it can be) tough to get back, so yeah, it's good.”

The Aussie lads were part of a moving mid-round tribute to Briony Lyle, widow of their fallen mate Jarrod.

Leishman, who grew up on Victorian squads and playing pennant with Jarrod Lyle at nearby Commonwealth Golf Club, knew Briony and her eldest daughter Lusi would be on the seventh tee as part of the “Lyle Mile” to honour his life, but still had to draw breath to steady after a moving hug from the Aussie and American teams for the pair.

“Yeah, it was a tough moment, but she's doing a lot harder than we are and if we can help her with that, that's a good thing,” Leishman said.

“It was nice to see her. It was just nice to get that tee shot away, to be honest. It was a hard tee shot.”

The Aussies looked set to kick clear of the Americans at severa points of the front nine, but were suddenly level when Matt Kuchar canned a short eagle putt on the ninth to have both teams at six under.

And while the home team couldn’t keep pace with the rollicking English or Koreans on the back nine, they left the fancied Americans languishing four strokes back at six under with the tougher foursomes format on the slate for tomorrow.