When Marc Leishman walked off the 18th green at TPC Kuala Lumpur on Sunday with another US PGA Tour title in his kitbag, one of the first to greet him was Cameron Smith.
Queenslander Smith and Victorian Leishman were the only two Australians in the field for the CIMB Championship, worth $US7 million. They ate dinner most nights, and chatted about next month’s World Cup of Golf at Metropolitan, where they are representing their country, and on Sunday night they had a few drinks by the hotel bar to celebrate.
Leishman, who is now ranked 16th in the world, will be the highest-ranked player in that field for the event from 21 November.
They are from far apart – Leishman from Warrnambool on Victoria’s west coast and Smith from Brisbane – but they share a calm demeanour that could work nicely at Metro, Leishman having selected the Queenslander as his partner from the world rankings, with Jason Day making himself unavailable.
“Those friendships are certainly going to help that and it was nice to have someone to celebrate with, I guess,’’ said Leishman today, as he prepared for a trip to South Korea to play another event. “It’s an individual sport, so it’s good to have that.’’
The calmness is innate, just as it is for Smith. “Nothing fazes us too much,’’ Leishman said. “Every shot, every tournament I’m trying to do my best, and as long as I do that and never give up, that’s all you can do. I feel like a lot of people put pressure on themselves, and that’s not something I do. I practice hard, so when I get in a situation like yesterday, that shows you’re doing the right thing.’’
Leishman desperately wants to win a big event in Australia, and he is playing not only the World Cup but the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines next month. After turning professional in 2005, his only home wins were tier-two events like the Victorian PGA in 2008.
“It’s fun playing well, holding up those trophies, creating memories like that is a lot of fun,’’ he said. “So it’s pretty easy for me to keep motivation in Australia, especially for me because I haven’t won one of them. That’s really important for me to tick that off the list. I want to play well and hopefully do that this year.’’
Leishman is plainly one of the best players in the world at 34, and he believes a more aggressive mindset is helping him. Sunday was a good example, where he made five birdies on the front nine on his way to a 65 that closed the door on everyone. He won by five, his most dominant performance in a big event.
Now he wants to win a major; would love to jump into the top 10 in the world (his highest ranking is 12th earlier this year). Money has ceased to be an issue, since he has won more than $US24 million in America alone. “I think it’s a lot easier now, not having to play for my livelihood, I guess. I’ve got my goals and all that but I don’t think about the money at all. I’m very lucky to be in that situation. I’m just trying to … if I’ve got a chance to win I’m going to play and win, not play to not mess up and finish second and third. I’ll try and win.’’