Date: September 20, 2017
Author: Justin Falconer

Why isn’t Leish your favourite Aussie athlete?

He just soared past Adam Scott in the official world rankings and is one of the five players most likely to be handed a $US10 million cheque from the PGA Tour this weekend.

But if Marc Leishman strolled down Bourke Street tomorrow, how many shoppers would recognise – or stop to congratulate – Australia’s best golfer in 2017?

The 33-year-old Victorian claimed his third career PGA Tour title on the weekend and now sits fourth on the all-important FedEx Cup standings with just one event to play this season.

But you should have been in love with Marc Leishman for years – and here’s why.

A life on golf’s most lucrative Tour wasn’t handed to the Warrnambool lad. With a five-shot lead heading into the final round on Saturday evening, reporters probed Leishman about his journey from cutting sheets of metal in a Melbourne factory to golf’s grandest stage in the US.

“It lasted a week,” laughed Leishman.

“I'm glad I did it because it really taught me the value of a dollar and I still really want to put that with my kids. Ifeel it's really important to know that.

“You could lose a limb pretty easily if you're not careful. That wasn't too good for my golf so that lasted a week, possibly two weeks.”

In 2013, an errant second shot on Augusta National’s 15th ultimately ended Leishman’s opportunity at making Australian sporting history.

But he didn’t sulk. He put his own heartbreak aside and willed a fellow Australian – his playing partner Adam Scott – to Masters glory.

“I really wanted to do everything I could to help Scotty, and it kind of felt a bit like a team there towards the end, trying to keep his mind off things,” he told Golf Link in December.

“Not, you know, coach him, but just try and be as helpful as I could.

“Obviously to see that putt drop, I mean, I did exactly what probably every other person in Australia was doing at the same time. It's just I happened to be on the green.”

The lowest point came exactly two years later, when Leishman’s wife Audrey contracted toxic shock syndrome and at one stage was given a five per cent chance of recovering.

Leishman has admitted he was forced to think about life without the mother two his two young sons – and life without golf.

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He’ll never be accused of not giving his all, but Leishman’s admission through 54 holes on Saturday showed now, he doesn't let winning define him.

“It's a game of golf. It's a golf tournament. It's not a life or death situation,” Leishman said in Chicago.

“Obviously it's our living and we want to do really, really well but, at the end of the day, we're making a living and putting food on the table and all that.”

As Audrey began to recover in 2015, Leishman was FLAT OUT ROBBED of a chance to win the game’s oldest major championship at its oldest and most legendary layout.

In a three-way playoff at the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrews, Leishman’s opening tee shot down the Old Course’s first – the world’s widest fairway – settled deep in a sandy divot.

A bogey ensued and with three playoff holes remaining, Leishman was already two shots back.

“Even the last round at The Open, at St. Andrews, that was very close to when Audrey was taken [ill],” Leishman said on Saturday.

“No nerves there. I don't know. I'm not sure what it is.

“I'm an easy going, relaxed person. I've been through a lot off the golf course, you know, the stuff with Audrey, and I feel like that kind of makes golf, not less important, but it's easy to put things into perspective.”

Leishman arrived at last week’s BMW Championship with redemption on his mind, after surrendering a back nine lead the previous Sunday to American golden boys Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.

Throughout the week and as he made the turn seven days later in a similar position, avoiding the same mistakes twice was Leishman’s priority.

“I did think about it,” said Leishman.

“Generally I say to my wife if I have a bad round ‘just give me ten minutes’ and I'll be all right.

“That one [last week] probably took a day. It stung a bit.”

Leishman didn’t get angry – there was no pouting, shifting of the blame or social media outbursts.

“Bouncing back from that I was a very determined person,” said Leishman, “and was determined not to let the same things happen again.”

What if I told you Leishman had climbed to World Number 15, was one of five players to win more than once on the PGA Tour this season, was third on Tour for scoring average (69.38) in 2017 – yet his fitness regime consisted solely of mowing the lawn?

“Yeah, everyday I'm out when I'm home. The neighbours think I'm crazy,” laughed Leishman at his winners’ press conference.

“But getting out there, it's a bit of a workout for me.

“I'm not a gym rat at all. I haven't run in about ten years. But I do try to stay somewhat healthy and in shape but that is like a little work out. It's probably a 150, 200-pound mower I'm pushing. Good workout. Stress relief, I guess.”

Watch Leishman's full BMW Championship winner's press conference:

Prioritising drinks over dumbbells means Leish’s modelling career might never get off the ground, but that’s of little concern. Leishman doesn’t care about celebrity.

“I kind of like that I can go wherever I want and no one knows who I am and that's pretty cool,” said Leishman.

“I've been out for dinner with Rickie [Fowler] and Jase [Day] and a lot of the guys, Scotty, and everyone knows who they are.

“It's kind of nice to fly under the radar.”

And although he’s a very real chance of banking an eight-figure check next Monday morning, he’s not doing it for the money, either. For Leishman, there’s more to life than golf.

“I've never been one to say I'm going to get to number one in the world or anything like that,” Leishman said on Sunday.

“With the life I live that's probably very hard for me to do that.

“I don't practice a lot on weeks off, I spend a lot of time with my kids and I feel like you have to dedicate… not your whole life, but you have to work very, very hard.”

“I'm happy doing what I'm doing now with the life I've got and the way I'm playing and all that to be happy with where I am. Obviously I want to keep winning tournaments.”

Not just for himself, mind you.

He was devastated to miss the Olympics last year, unable to justify risking Audrey’s health once he returned home from Rio.

He eventually donned the green and gold after telling Adam Scott in no uncertain terms he was desperate to play for Australia in last year’s World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath.

Already a force in match play, Leishman will now lead the Internationals into the upcoming Presidents Cup in the US.

“To win the Presidents Cup would be massive,” he said on the weekend.

“That would be a highlight of my career, the whole team's career.”

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If you’re going to jump on board, now’s your last chance. It’s been a career year for the sweet-swinging Leishman, a year he probably couldn’t predict but has always been capable of producing.

“You dream,” he said on Sunday.

“I thought my game was in a good enough spot but, you know, having one win in eight years, it's hard to imagine winning twice in one year and two big events like they were.”

Leishman might never be a major champion but when he finally gives the game away, he’ll be solely remembered for giving all he had, 18 holes at a time.

“You want to be remembered as a good bloke and someone who, hopefully, performed well under pressure,” said Leishman.

“There was a reasonable amount of pressure today and I dealt with it pretty good, I feel like.”

The pressure will only grow as Leishman continues to keep the Tour’s brightest young stars honest next year, but no player on Tour – and no Australian – looks better equipped.

He'll juggle his time between sons Harvey and Oliver, two-month old Eva and a stacked 2018 schedule.

But he’ll always find time for mowing the lawn.