A year has changed a whole lot for Marc Leishman, one of the most promising Australian players on the PGA Tour of the United States. This time 12 months ago, Leishman was pottering along through three days of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut, still chasing his first tour win in his 96th start. Then it clicked for him. A superb 62 in the final round sent him away to the practice putting green while he waited to see if it was enough. Two hours passed until he knew that he had his maiden tournament win on the Big Show. It changed his life, giving him a two-year exemption on tour, and a spot in the 2013 Masters tournament, for instance. Not to mention a million bucks. Back in Connecticut to defend this weekend, the 29-year-old from Warrnambool in Victoria noted the change. There is a little bit more attention, he told a tournament media conference. People know my name now. Like no one ever knew who I was. I&aposd get here and the crowd was like who is this bloke here ? And now it&aposs like, Go, Leish” or Go Marc . So I think that&aposs cool. This time last year Leishman celebrated hard, imbibing probably the best tasting beer I&aposve ever had from the trophy. He put his then five-month-old son Harvey on the trophy and took a photograph; even put the lad in the trophy at one point. He kept looking at that trophy. It&aposs still amazing to see the names on there. It&aposs pretty good. It&aposs a weird feeling but hopefully there will be more of these trophies that will have my name on them further down the track. Back at his business, he has continued to surge in 2013, leading the Masters through the first round with a 66 at Augusta National, ultimately tieing for fourth with Tiger Woods, behind Adam Scott, who of course broke the Australian hoodoo at that storied tournament. The good friends played in the same group on the final day; with Leishman out of contention they shared a high-five on the 18th green when Scott buried his birdie putt in regulation play that actually hurt the Victorian. He had a short par-saver to make himself after that. Over that putt I couldn&apost feel my hand and managed to knock it in, but it was just awesome to be there for that, he said. Although he missed the cut at the US Open at Merion last week, he has had some good results since Augusta, including a top-10 at the Players Championship at Sawgrass. It indicates a new self-confidence eked out of the win in the Travelers and contending until near-death in a Masters. I knew my swing held up under this sort of pressure, and it&aposs not that much different, it&aposs still a golf tournament, the last round; fair bit of pressure, see how it goes, he said. I was drawing on this to give myself confidence. I knew I had done it before and no reason why I couldn&apost do it again. It was good to know that it held up again under the pressure, so next time, hopefully I&aposm in contention in another major fairly soon, I&aposm know that obviously it&aposs not a given that you&aposre going to play great but I&aposll know that I can and I&aposve got the right tools that week. Leishman credits sports psychologist Neale Smith with a lot of his growth as a player, having stalled in the years after his fine rookie season in 2009, when he was runner-up in the BMW Championship. Until then, the former Warrnambool club champion had followed a smooth path to the top. Then having graduated to the most lucrative tour and tasted success, he stalled. Smith has taught him to be kind to himself. I think the biggest thing; I used to get a little bit angry, not really angry but I would get down on myself more than anything, and I&aposve stopped doing that, which stopped the runs of, you know, four or five bogeys in a row, trying to cut it down. He&aposs given me a few things to work on under pressure, really simple things; but when you&aposre nervous or under pressure, you breathe really shallow. He&aposs given me some techniques for breathing that just when you&aposre nervous, take a few deep breaths and you feel fine, you feel nervous. He&aposs helped me with that. I think that&aposs probably one of the biggest things. Leishman, one of 11 Australians in the field for this weekend, is ranked 62nd in the world and fourth among Australians, behind only Adam Scott (4), Jason Day (16) and John Senden (61). His coach, Denis McDade, thinks he is a potential world top-10 player. First, a spot in the top 50 would put him into the British Open Championship at Muirfield next month. It’s a tempting morsel. And eminently reachable.
Author: Martin Blake / Golf.org.au