Readers using smartphones can watch part of this interview here: http://youtu.be/lILg6RDS4x4
MARC Leishman opens the door to the Warrnambool home he grew up in and welcomes us inside.
The TV is on, a replay of Collingwood versus Fremantle on Fox Footy. Leishman supports neither — his allegiances lie with Richmond.
But with time on his hands, for once, it’s a chance for him to catch up on the native game.
“I haven’t seen a game of footy all year,” he laments.
Such is the life of a professional golfer, or any Australian sportsman who makes a living on the international stage.
Leishman, who turned 30 last month and became a father for the second time nine weeks ago, is home for the first time in a while.
He has two more events on the calendar before he can take a well-earned break with Christmas approaching.
The first is the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast, starting next Thursday.
He’ll also play in the Australian Masters at Royal Melbourne the following week.
The two tournaments will bring the curtain down on a dramatic 2013.
The basics were: four top-10 finishes and 16 cuts made from 23 events, $1.49 million in prizemoney and a world ranking of 68.
His best result came in the biggest event on the US PGA Tour calendar, tied for fourth in the Masters at Augusta in April.
He was eighth in the Players Championship in May and ninth in both the RBC Heritage in April and Sony Open in Hawaii in January.
Then there was the President’s Cup last month. Leishman was a captain’s pick for Nick Price’s International team and reinforced his reputation with a stellar debut.
“It was a good year. The Masters, the President’s Cup stand out. Obviously I got close to winning the Masters and the President’s Cup was a big week,” he said.
“I had a few other good weeks — the PGA (Championship) and the Players, which are two other big events.
“I didn’t have a win. I would’ve liked to have done that but it’s hard to do that. It’s been a solid year.
“I missed a few more cuts but I played better in the events that I wanted to play well in.”
THE effort at the Masters sticks in his mind and ranks as good, if not better, than his breakthrough win in the 2012 Travelers Championship.
Leishman was two shots off the pace after the third round and in contention to win the coveted green jacket — every golfer’s dream.
He finished with an even-par 72, four shots behind fellow Australian Adam Scott, who beat Argentine Angel Cabrera in a play-off.
Still, Leishman became part of golf folklore, if inadvertently.
As Scott celebrated sinking a 6.1-metre putt on the 18th which put him into the play-off, Leishman was in the background pumping his fist.
His own Masters’ ambitions were gone. Rain was pelting the famous course. Others would have been keen to get out of the spotlight.
But the fact an Australian was on the verge of winning the one sporting title which had been so elusive was itself cause for celebration.
The sense of national pride was palpable.
The photo later took on a life of its own.
Scott didn’t see it until a couple of days after the Masters.
“When I saw that with Leish, now I look back on that as one of my favourite things at Augusta,” he said.
“An incredible sense of national pride there — and what a top bloke he is for that kind of reaction.”
Fellow Australian Geoff Ogilvy was also taken aback by the image.
“There’s Leish. And you see Adam and you say ‘is that not the best photo ever?’,” he said.
“And it’s not because of Adam. There are thousands of photos of him fist-pumping. It’s just a moment in time.
“It sums up what it meant to be Australian and it sums up what Australians admire in a person.”
Leishman, understandably, would have preferred to be in Scott’s shoes.
But once he realised his chances were gone, his hopes were for Scott to etch his name into Masters history.
“When you’re at the Masters as an Australian, you get asked every day when is an Australian going to win the Masters,” he said.
“You get sick of it, to be honest. To not have to answer that question is huge. But also I wanted to see a good mate of mine win.
“It’s one of the only boxes Australian sport hadn’t ticked off. The Ashes, the America’s Cup, all the majors in tennis, all the majors in golf except the Masters.
“The Tour de France, Cadel Evans won that a couple of years ago. After the Tour de France it was just the Masters.”
He said the feedback about the photo had been incredible.
“Everyone who sees me talks about it. Scotty spoke to me about it a lot,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of feedback on it, all good. It’d be great to get my hands on a copy of it.”
Leishman is relieved to be in Warrnambool, despite heavy rain which flooded the Warrnambool and Port Fairy golf courses marring his first week home.
Kermond’s Hamburgers and fish ’n’ chips are among the things he has missed most, along with parents Paul and Pelita and sister Kristy, 26.
“It’s good to be back and go for a cruise up Liebig Street or go down to the beach,” Leishman said.
“It’s good to come back and see a few mates and chill out for a few days.”
Across the other side of the world, at his second home in Virginia Beach, his wife Audrey is looking after their two sons.
Harvey is almost two and has worked out what it means when Dad starts packing his suitcase.
Newest addition Oliver has given perspective to how Leishman juggles life as a golfer and a father.
Audrey is a huge help, a “great mum”. But life on the road can be tough, even at the best of times.
“It’s only going to get harder two years down the track when I’ve got two kids not wanting me to go,” he said.
“But that’s part of it. I knew that was going to happen once they grew up.”
As for his goals for the 2015 PGA Tour, which is already under way courtesy of a revamp of the calendar, a second win is a priority.
“Obviously I want to get another win, that’s high on the list, and contend in more majors, but just do everything better than I did this year,” Leishman said.
“I felt like I improved almost everything this year compared to last year.”