HE was Australian golf’s flag bearer on the fiercely-competitive US PGA Tour this year but Marc Leishman says he won’t carry any added pressure when he chases his first big victory on home soil in today’s Australian Open.
The Warrnambool professional notched up Australia’s only win on the US PGA Tour in 2012 when he stormed home to claim the Travelers Championship in Connecticut in June with a final-round 62.
But the 29-year-old said that triumph didn’t guarantee him success at The Lakes course in Sydney this week. In recognition of his growing status in Australia, he features in one of today’s marquee groups, teeing off with two-time winner Robert Allenby and 14-year-old amateur Guan Tianlang in the prime television coverage time of noon.
“I don’t think there is any more pressure,” he said.
“There are so many good players playing this week. Obviously I would be one of the names getting thrown around but it’s a long week and there is a lot of golf to be played between now and Sunday.
“Obviously I would like to be around the mark.”
Leishman used rounds in windy conditions around Warrnambool Golf Club last weekend to acclimatise to the heavier breezes he expects to encounter at The Lakes.
But he said his build-up to Australia’s most sought-after trophy, the Stonehaven Cup, had been vastly different to last year.
While he has played just two tournaments since early September, Leishman said he had been working hard.
“It’s been good to recharge the batteries,” Leishman said. “I didn’t start the year until the end of January or start of February and then I played 23 events by September. It was a lot of golf.”
With wife Audrey giving birth to their first child Harvey at the start of the year, it had been a big campaign, he said.
His lead-up to the Australian Open last year hadn’t been ideal but after spending months working on his fitness and mental side of his game, Leishman said he was better prepared.
“I’ve been doing a fair bit of work on my body, trying to get more in shape and trying to mentally prepare better. I’ve been working with a mental coach,” he said.
He said he had dropped 10-12 kilograms in the past 12 months and had worked hard on strengthening and stretching programs to improve his swing.
Leishman said he felt his swing had been good all year and had spent more time on the other aspects of his game, which he hoped would have long-term benefits.
He played in China and Malaysia before arriving in Australia and after nine holes at The Lakes on Tuesday pronounced himself ready for a tilt at his first Australian Open victory.
“I’m hitting the ball pretty well and feeling good,” he said.
Leishman said his light playing load in recent months had him fresh for this week and the Australian PGA at Coolum next week before spending Christmas with his family in Warrnambool.