Room to move on the winners’ list for Leishman

MARC Leishman is a master of striking golf balls.

He’s almost as good at delivering understatements.

Reflecting on what was arguably the best year of his professional golf career, Leishman quipped: “it’s been a good year”.

Good doesn’t do it justice.

On the golfing front, he broke through for his first victory on the US PGA Tour, a one-shot win in the Travelers’ Championship thanks to a stunning eight-under-par final round.

The triumph was one of two top-10 tour finishes for the year. He was in the top 25 five times, made 19 of 23 cuts and amassed $1.93 million in prizemoney.

And on a personal level, he and wife Audrey welcomed into the world their first son, Harvey, who will celebrate his first birthday next month.

It was a year to remember for the Warrnambool professional and one which hints at bigger things when he starts his 2013 campaign this week.

But his ambitions remain the same as they were 12 months ago — to better his already world-class game.

He doesn’t set new year’s resolutions and results-driven goals just add unnecessary pressure.

“They’re more just process goals, not really results goals,” Leishman said.

“It’s easy to say I want to win three times and do this and do that.

“But I see more process goals, I want to do things better than I have in the past, those sorts of things.

“If you do them all, the results come, which they did.”

That simple mentality was the catalyst to Leishman joining golfing’s elite.

“I’m just doing things better. I’m not hitting the ball that much better, but I’m managing time better, not making silly mistakes, feeling more comfortable,” he said.

“And I know the courses better. As you get more experience playing at that level it progressively gets better.

“It doesn’t always happen. You have to work hard, but I have got a bit of experience now.”

Leishman, 29, has spent the past month in Australia, contesting the Australian Open and the Australian PGA Championship.

He made it back to Warrnambool for Christmas and squeezed in a round at Warrnambool Golf Course on Saturday, finishing with a “nothing too flash” two-under-par.

“The lad I played with had 47 (stableford) points, which is a really solid score. That’s Will McKenzie,” he said.

But, such is the life of a professional golfer, he’ll leave Warrnambool today for Hawaii, where he’ll tee off in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Leishman is one of 30 winners from the 2012 US PGA Tour aiming to kick off their 2013 campaign with a win.

Twenty of his rivals are older than him, suggesting there’s more to come from one of Warrnambool’s favourite sons.

Much has been made of Leishman being the only Australian to win a US PGA Tour event in 2012.

His Travelers’ Championship win at Connecticut in June ended an almost year-long drought for Aussies on the coveted tour.

The drought started after Adam Scott won the World Golf Championships in Ohio in August 2011 and ended when Leishman shot himself into history at River Highlands.

But ask Leishman and he’ll tell you Australian golf is in good health.

It’s not that we’ve gone backwards, just that the rest of the world has caught up,” he said.

“The development programs are better. They’re catching up to Australia. Australia was quite a bit ahead there for a while.

“I don’t think we’re in a bad spot at all. There are a lot of good players. If Scotty had have won the British Open, everyone would’ve been saying it was pretty strong.

“I think it’s fine. There are a lot of good Australian players. There’s no reason why we can’t have five or six wins overall.”

Facilities worldwide had also played a role, he said.

Courses are being created where golfers can play all-year-round. flights are cheaper for those unable to have a hit in winter and golf technology is reducing the gap between the elite and the emerging.

“I think we were spoilt with Greg Normal dominating for years, Steve Elkington, Aaron Baddeley had a good year, (Robert) Allenby, (Stuart) Appleby, (Geoff) Ogilvy.

“There might be a changing of the guard happening now. A few of the older guys aren’t playing as well as they were and there are younger guys coming through.

“Things go in phases.”

Leishman, and the rest of Warrnambool, hopes he’ll be a part of that next phase.

afawkes@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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