World Number 21 Marc Leishman has shown again that near enough is good enough after he recovered from a scratchy start to post 4-under 68 in the opening round of the Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort on Thursday.
Eager to begin in similar fashion to 12 months ago when he was tied for the lead through 36 holes, Leishman three-putted his opening hole of the tournament – the par-4 10th – to be on the back foot early and made the turn at even par.
Back-to-back birdies at the third and fifth holes swung momentum the right way with further birdies at seven and nine bringing him to within two shots of early leaders Jake McLeod and Matt Jager.
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“It could have been worse,” Leishman conceded on Thursday. “I could have easily shot even par.
“I did a similar thing in Malaysia (where he won the CIMB Classic). Didn’t have my best stuff in the first round and then when you do hit some good shots you can attack a little bit more.
“I’m not saying I played badly, it just wasn’t an immaculate round, I would say. It was a very good round for the way that I hit it.
“That’s been the goal of mine for the last few years, when I don’t have my best golf, my best stuff, to still shoot under par. Not put myself out of the tournament with one round.
“I’m getting better at it. I can still obviously improve with it, but just as my good rounds are really good, I have to make the bad rounds not quite as bad.
“Hopefully I can play a little better tomorrow and do the same as I did last year and hopefully be right around the lead after two rounds.”
Leishman’s opening tee shot found the right rough but a solid approach shot gave him a look at birdie, a putt that he ran eight feet past the hole before missing the one coming back.
Greens that were noticeably quicker than they were for the afternoon pro-am on Wednesday necessitated a quick adjustment, Leishman finding his range with a birdie at the par-5 12th.
“I hit a good putt on 11 that didn’t go in, and then made a putt on 12 for birdie from about 10 feet,” Leishman explained.
“I hit a lot of good putts today actually. They were quicker today than they were yesterday, definitely.
“That makes them easier to putt on, but they’re still quite grainy. But you expect that coming to Queensland, especially when the weather’s been the way it has, too.
“It’s just hard putting on them. If I had to predict a score, I wouldn’t think it would be as low as it was last year just because it’s going to be harder to make putts.
“If you don’t match up the line and speed absolutely perfectly on these greens when there’s grain, when grain’s a factor, you can they look like they’re going in. And if they’re a little bit too hard, they won’t break, and obviously a little soft, they’ll break across the hole. I hit a few putts like that.
“I was happy with how many putts I made today.”