MARC Leishman was left ruing missed opportunities after being eliminated by Spain’s Sergio Garcia in the opening round of the WGC Matchplay Championships in Arizona.
In a tense match, the Warrnambool professional was defeated on the 22nd hole after Garcia made a birdie to his par.
Leishman was blunt in his assessment of his four-under par score across the 22 holes.
“There were plenty of chances for me but I hit bad shots at the wrong time,” Leishman said.
He drove into the “death” bunker and hit an approach into the desert on the 18th and left a wedge short on the first extra hole, but left his biggest error for the 20th hole.
With world number eight Garcia well short of the par-five green in two and in the rough, Leishman pulled his second shot from the fairway into a short-sided bunker and drew a terrible lie, scrambling for a par.
Garcia then clinched the match with a birdie on the 22nd hole.
The match was intriguing.
Leishman made a flying start and was two up after three holes, but Garcia drew level on the 11th before going one up on the next hole.
Leishman hit back on the 14th and 15th holes with birdies to regain the lead. But Garcia levelled the match on the 17th, ensuring a dramatic finish.
Countryman Jason Day overcame a late rally from Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen to reach the second round.
He hit brilliant approach shots on the final two holes of the Dove Mountain course to win two up and set up a clash with American Billy Horschel.
In a change from the usual day one carnage, just nine of the 32 first round matches ended in upset wins, with world number six Zach Johnson and number eight Dustin Johnson the biggest casualties.
Steve Stricker, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Keegan Bradley were also ousted by lower-ranked opponents.
Day was two up over Olesen through 14 holes but watched two birdie putts from the Dane drop on the next two holes to square the match.
But Day fought back for victory.
“I played as good as I could and I didn’t make a bogey out there,” Day said. “I played solid golf but just the amount of stress and pressure you put on yourself, especially coming down the final few holes, it’s intense.”
Meanwhile, former south-west golfer Stacey Keating is well placed after a brutal first round of the Victorian Open at Thirteenth Beach, Barwon Heads.
Keating, from Cressy, who grew up playing at courses like Lismore, carded an even-par 73 despite making four birdies. A double-bogey seven at the par-five 18th left a sour taste to an otherwise impressive start to the defence of her title.
Warrnambool amateur Joanna Flaherty, playing in the biggest event of her short career, posted an opening round 88.