IT might not have ended the way he wanted but Marc Leishman was pleased with his start to the 2013 US PGA Tour.
Leishman yesterday posted a final-round 67 to finish tied for ninth in the $US5.6 million event at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
While the Warrnambool professional finished 10 shots behind winner Russell Henley, he was in the hunt for much of his final round.
After getting to 14-under for the tournament with his third birdie of the day on the par-four 12th, Leishman loomed as a challenger down the stretch with several birdie holes to come.
But the 29-year-old had no luck on the greens as he closed out his round with six consecutive pars. In comparison, Henley made five consecutive birdies between the 13th and 17th holes as he posted a final-round, seven-under 63 to win by three shots from South African Tim Clark. Leishman was among 10 players separated by just three shots.
“I actually played well this week,” Leishman told The Standard as he headed to the airport.
“I didn’t finish it off the way I would have liked today but I played bogey-free.
“I gave myself chances and the putts lipped out on me. It could have been better.
“At the start of the day I probably thought I was a chance if I played well but as it turned out I would have had to shoot in the 50s to catch the guy who was leading.
“A top-10 is a good week. It was frustrating at the end that the putts didn’t drop.”
He said he was pleased to start the year positively. He agreed that having an exemption on the tour for next year after his breakthrough win last year eased some of the pressure associated with playing on the world’s toughest tour.
But he said he wanted to play well enough to keep his card and not rely on the exemption.
Leishman said he enjoyed the week thanks to the perfect weather after enduring a horror spell last week when the tournament of champions event, also in Hawaii, was delayed for three days and then reduced to a 54-hole event. He will take this week off before playing back-to-back tournaments in San Diego and Phoenix as he ramps up his preparations for a crack at the first major of the year — the US Masters at Augusta National in Georgia.
Henley became the first US PGA Tour rookie in 12 years to win in his debut tournament, taking out the event with a record-setting performance. Tied for the lead with fellow rookie Scott Langley to start the final round, the 23-year-old American seized control early with a birdie on the first hole and came home strongly.
Henley closed with a seven-under 63 to finish at 24-under 256.
Leishman was the best of the Australians. It was his first top-10 finish since winning the Travelers Championship in June last year.
Scott Gardiner, the first indigenous Australian to play full-time on the top-tier tour, was four shots off the pace heading into the final round but dropped back with a final-round 71.
Still, the 36-year-old rookie made an admirable start to his first US PGA season, finishing in a tie for 15th at 12-under, alongside compatriot Matt Jones (70).
Henley broke the tournament scoring record by four strokes.
It was the second-lowest score for a 72-hole tournament in PGA Tour history, one shot behind Tommy Armour III at the Texas Open in 2003.
Henley became the first PGA Tour rookie to win his debut event since Garrett Willis in 2001 and the victory gives him a Masters invitation.
Langley closed with an even-par 70 to share third spot with Charles Howell (66), one shot ahead of Matt Kuchar (65), Brian Stuard (65) and Chris Kirk (66). - WITH AAP