Australian Marc Leishman kind of snuck up on less knowledgeable golf fans when he was involved in a four-man play-off for the Open Championship. And he did is again with an opening four-under-par 68 in the opening round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Thursday.
The man from Warrnambool, Victoria was Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour in 2009, and he seems intent on making his rookie appearance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge count too.
“It was a solid start out there,” he said. “Four birdies and no bogeys is a good way to start the tournament, definitely.”
It might not hold up for the lead, but for a first competitive journey around the Gary Player Country Club layout, it was very satisfying. “I really like the golf course,” he said.” “It’s a course where if you hit some really good shots you can make a lot of birdies, but, having said that, if you’re not hitting good shots, there are definitely bogeys or worse to be made. That’s the sign of a really good golf course.”
He had an early flirtation with the difficulties the course can pose when he pushed his opening tee shot right and right up against a paved cart path. “If I took relief there, I would have had my back swing impeded by a tree, so I took my chances,” he said. His approach landed up 20 feet from the pin, but he was unable to convert for birdie.
Other than that, he had no threatening flirtations with the rough. “This is my first year here, so I’ve got nothing to compare it to, but in areas it is pretty thick,” he said. “A lot of the time you’ll get a decent lie and be able to still get a bit of spin on the ball. There is a little bit of luck involved. But the course is awesome. The fairways are perfect, and the greens roll as true as you’ll get, so it’s a very good course to play.”
With a start that has eased him into contention, keep a lookout for him on Sunday.