Marc Leishman knows every stroke he takes in this week’s US Open is a bonus.
And the genial Warrnambool giant made the stark admission today that he doesn’t even really care how he goes on one of the toughest tests this fabled tournament has dished up in modern memory.
Just 11 weeks ago, Leishman’s American wife Audrey was in a fight for her life in a Virginia hospital – and he and his family were preparing for the unthinkable worst.
It’s been well documented that he missed April’s Masters to be by her side in intensive care and he remains clearly emotional when recounting her ongoing and impressive recovery.
But today, after his second practice round for the year’s second major, the perspective he’s gained puts golf a distant second to family in life’s priorities.
“Not having the stress on my golf plays into my hands, definitely,” Leishman said. “And playing better the past couple of months, I’ve done enough to keep my card next year, and it’s another thing that’s not on my mind and frees me up even more.
“But obviously after what happened to Audrey, my perspective is a little different and I think I play my best golf when I don’t really care what the outcome is – just try to hit a shot and if it comes off, great; if it doesn’t, it’s not going to change my life.
“It’s a major, but it’s still just a golf tournament. I’m still really happy to be out playing golf.
“Matty (long-time friend and caddie Matt Kelly) and I were talking about it at Memorial (PGA Tour event in Ohio a fortnight ago), actually. It was two months (at the time) when Audrey was in a coma.
“We were there thinking she’s going to die; and now we’re out here again.
“She can walk nine holes, go in the pool with the boys (Harvey and Oliver) and we’re enjoying life again.
“Things are getting back to normal now, which is good and a huge relief.”
And while Audrey and family remain on the east coast – Leishman’s father Paul is on hand in Washington – the freedom of her health is clearly evident for the world No.53.
“And that’s going to be really good around here because there’s gonna be times when you hit really good shots and finish in really bad positions,” he said.
“But I feel like I can move on from that pretty quickly right now.
“You can hit a perfect putt from four feet and have it miss by a full cup – it’s just gonna be like that.
“That’s what US Opens are about and it’s just the more experience you have, the better you are here because this is so much different than any other tournament – it’s just brutal.”
Like many others in the field trying to assess this beast of a course, the affable Victorian is coming to terms with greens far bumpier than regular tour events.
But his positive attitude towards a course that gives him peculiar memories of his seaside childhood will stand him in good stead with many of the world’s top golfers already complaining about what’s in store on a course already parched three days before the event begins.
“The course is good. It’s great from tee to about 20m short of the green, then it gets a bit severe, but it’s do-able, for sure.
“It’s got a little bit of that feeling (of Warrnambool or Port Fairy golf clubs), in summer maybe.
“Matty and I were saying before walking down one of the holes that it smelt like the coast where we grew up. You smell something and your mind takes you back to that place where you grew up and it does that here. He said it and I was already thinking it,” he said with a typical customary smile of someone who still reveres his home.
“It will be interesting to see how quick they get the greens and if they can get them smooth. But it’s interesting and fair off the tee and you’ve got to shape your shots into the green to get to certain places, which is good.
“If you’re not playing well you’re going to have plenty – and even if you are playing well you could have plenty.
“The talk is of some guys complaining already, but I don’t know if you can discount anyone (from winning) because of that at this stage.
“But mindset is a big thing and if you’ve got a bad one it’s going to be a long week, or even a two-day week.
“But someone’s gotta win it, and hopefully I’m one of those guys in it at the end.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if 10 over won it. You’re going to have bogeys, you’re going to have doubles – you don’t even have to hit bad shots. You can hit a good one and just get unlucky in a bad spot.
“But once you get your head around that, you’ll be better for it.”
Leishman, who tied fifth at last year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, said he loved the way this American links set up, as opposed to the normally penal, deep green rough of a US Open.
“This isn’t usually my favourite tournament, but this (week) is different. I love the British Open. But the fairways are more generous here and the greens you’ve got to use a lot of imagination whereas normally you’ve got to just hack it out at the US Open and hope that you judge it somewhat right.
“Obviously the scores are going to be like a normal US Open and maybe five or 10 over par (could) win..
“And it’s obviously a long week, but I feel like I’m preparing well and the game’s there.”