Date: January 03, 2018
Author: Martin Blake

Leish starting out on a high in Hawaii


 Marc Leishman begins the next phase of the 2017-18 season on the United States PGA Tour with an equal career-high world ranking of No. 12 this week in Hawaii.

Leishman, who won twice in America last year, is in the field along with Queenslander Cameron Smith for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the limited-field, $US6.3 million event for tournament winners from last year. Smith is there because he partnered Jonas Blixt to a win at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans last May.

The 34-year-old Leishman recently overtook Jason Day as Australia's top-ranked player.

They are the only two Australians in the 32-player field, Jason Day and Adam Scott both having winless years in 2017.

But most of the big names are playing at Kapalua resort from Friday (Australian time) including the newly-engaged Jordan Spieth, multiple major champion and world No. 2 who recently proposed to his longtime girlfriend Annie Verret, along with Dustin Johnson and world No. 3 Justin Thomas.

Spieth, the two-time Emirates Australian Open champion, spoke for everyone when he talked about the excitement building for the new year.

"I think this year, 2018, the unknowns are very exciting right now,'' he told the media. "I think with the amount of depth and talent at a younger age mixed with the guys in their 30s that are playing No. 1 in the world, DJ, what is he, 32 or something? Some other phenomenal players that you would call maybe in prime, right. And then, obviously, the major question, which is, what's it going to be like with Tiger coming back.

"So I think 2018, these unknowns are extremely exciting starting out and within the next six months it's a pretty special time to be a part of professional golf. I feel that way. I'll just set my goals like we do all the time and try and get out there and accomplish them year after year. And that's when I sit here every single year, I've got my goals for the year that by this time that I'm certainly set out to tackle.''

Spieth struggled by his lofty standards at The Australian late last year but pointed out today that he did not have his regular team in place, caddie Michael Greller not making the trip so that instructor Cameron McCormick was required to carry his bag.

Asked if he would return to Australia for a fifth consecutive year, Spieth said he was unsure. "As far as this year's schedule, I don't normally know until around July, and I feel out how the year is going, and each year it's felt like it's been a really good opportunity to have a really fun trip also playing a great event that can then set you up for the next year.

"This year (at The Australian), it was a short week, I didn't get in until Tuesday. I was adjusting quickly, but it was — having Cameron on the bag and the way that he caddied, he caddied the way that I asked him to, which was not the way that Michael caddies. It was, let's talk about every shot — every single time I hit a shot, let's talk through it and get a mental gauge on where things are, which certainly put me at a disadvantage. I probably lost a few shots because of that, and I knew that going in.

"But I thought that going forward for the rest of the season to have Cameron have a really good insight into what I was thinking at different times and where tendencies came up and whatnot, and then to voice them, which is what you never want to do. But to be able to do that and create kind of a mental coach out of him on course was advantageous, I think going forward into this year as we look into different events and we talk in between rounds. So it was a success in that sense, I think, and therefore it was a great idea.''