Marc Leishman has often shown in his now nearly ten years on the PGA Tour that he has the right stuff in terms of contending and potentially winning a major championship.
This weekend he gets another chance to break through and win at the one of the four major titles when he heads into the final 36 holes of the Masters just two behind Patrick Reed.
Ever since finishing as the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year in 2009 and making it to the Tour Championship that year, Leishman has gone quietly about his business, often flying under the radar but achieving at close to the highest level on several occasions.
Performing under the considerable shadows produced by Jason day and Adam Scott during much of his time on the PGA Tour, Leishman has managed to win three PGA Tour titles and produce ten other second or third place finishes and accumulate more than US$21 million in prizemoney earnings alone.
He has contended for a major on several occasions, the best of those when runner-up at the Open Championship in 2015, his unflappable manner allowing him to cope with the roller coaster that prevails when such high stakes are up for grabs.
This is Leishman’s sixth appearance at Augusta National although other than a 4th place finish in 2013 there has not been a lot to get excited about. He is, however, a more experienced player and as he displayed in today’s second round of The Masters he appears primed to take the big step.
Leishman birdied his opening three holes to join the lead on Friday but while that was an impressive start it was his second the Par 5 15th that was the shot of the day and perhaps told the story of Leishman’s perhaps more brilliant game and aggressive mindset than it would outwardly appear.
“I considered other options, but to win this tournament, you’re going to have to take a chance at some point,” he said when asked about taking on that spectacular shot.”
“I felt like that was one where the reward was worth the risk because that’s such a hard wedge shot, and it’s probably hard to make par from that wedge shot, hitting off a down-slope on to a narrow green.
“So I thought if I could get it up there somewhere and possibly 2‑putt for birdie, that would be a good outcome and it was a better outcome than that.”
From 226 yards with a 5 iron Leishman executed the shot beautifully turning the shot as much as 40 yards and releasing to 5 feet from where he converted for an eagle which at that point got him within one.
Reed would finish strongly to extend his lead to two shots but Leishman gets the chance to eye the leader when the pair play tomorrow.
He is not bothered by the prospect of playing in the final group, after all he played with Tiger Woods on the opening two days and outplayed one of the game’s greatest by 11 shots and survived the hype involved.
“It certainly can’t hurt,” said Leishman when asked how that experience might have helped in preparing for the weekend. “When I saw I was paired with Tiger, I really did look at it as a positive. We get along really well.
“If you are going to win this tournament, you’re going to play in front of some really big crowds and you’re going to have a lot of energy around your group, whether it’s in the crowd or inside the ropes.
“I really looked at it as preparation for that later in the week, so it’s ‑‑ I enjoy playing with him, I like playing in front of big crowds, and on the biggest stage, as well. Again, this is why, as a golfer, we do all our practice to be prepared for that. And I feel like I was prepared for it, and I’m glad I played well to show it.”
Leishman will of course not only have to watch the man he is pursuing but also those behind him who include some of the greatest names in the game currently but he there is something about the manner in which he is going about his business that suggests they should be as concerned about the Australian as he should about them.