WARRNAMBOOL’S Marc Leishman gave his dad Paul a birthday present to remember yesterday when the golfer produced his best finish in more than a year on the USPGA Tour.
Leishman carded a final round 66 to finish tied for third in the Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, just two shots behind winner American Jason Dufner.
It was the 28-year-old’s best finish since he finished tied for third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March last year and his second-best result on tour, having posted a tied-second result in 2010.
The performance, which earned him $US312,000, ensured a jovial celebration for his father’s 55th birthday, with his parents Paul and Pelita joining him in Texas late last week.
“He (dad) was out there watching me today,” Leishman told The Standard yesterday before marking his father’s special day and celebrating his performance with a couple of beers.
“It was a really good week.”
Leishman, chasing his maiden tour win, started the day three shots behind Dufner but put the pressure on early, opening his round with a birdie. He was three-under for the round through nine holes.
Birdies at the par-four ninth and 10th holes lifted Leishman into a share of the lead.
He was among five players at the top of the leaderboard but a birdie at the par-five 16th after he came close to his second eagle of the tournament on the hole gave him the lead on his own.
A three-putt bogey on the par-three 17th derailed his charge — his only blemish of the day. Dufner closed out the title with a birdie on the last.
Leishman, who has lost 10 kilograms since the start of the US season, said he had been working hard after a frustrating year, which had yielded only two top-20 finishes, with a tie for 17th his best in February.
“I was really close to cracking it for my first win,” Leishman said yesterday.
“I played well all day, all week really but I bogeyed the 17th. I just hit it to the wrong spot and three-putted. That’s golf.”
Leishman said he was excited about his form, which he said hadn’t been as bad as his results reflected.
“I have been playing OK, I just haven’t been finishing off on Sundays.
“I need to keep giving myself chances and today I gave myself a chance.”
He said it was the first time in more than a year that he had been in contention heading to the back nine on Sunday.
“If someone had said to me at the start of the day you could have 66 or go home, I would have taken it.”
Leishman said he had been mixing good with bad this season.
“Earlier in the year I was making a lot of birdies but making a lot of mistakes.
“I’ve cut those out.
“The last four or five weeks I’ve been cutting out the really bad shots.
“Everyone will hit bad shots but I’m improving.
“My game is getting better and my head is getting better.
“If I hit a bad shot I’m getting my head together quick.”
Leishman said his fitness had improved in recent weeks.
“I’ve lost 10 kilograms since the start of the year,” he said.
“I always put my standard five or so kilograms on when I come home with the beers and food and Christmas.
“I’m working really hard and it’s starting to pay off.”
Leishman’s performance leapt him from 118th on the tour’s points standings to 69.
He intends playing the next two weeks before a short break.
His schedule includes contesting the US Open qualifying event in a bid to get a start in the second major of the year.