Marc Leishman – file photo

Marc Leishman’s recent form improvement augurs well for a successful defence of his Famers Insurance title at the famed Torrey Pines this week.

Two weeks ago Leishman finished in 4th place at the Sony Open in Honolulu and yesterday he discussed just why he has developed such an impressive record at Torrey Pines which includes not only his narrow win over Jon Rahm last year but two other runner-up finishes in his twelve starts in the event.

“It reminds me a lot of home, the grasses that are at Torrey Pines here I grew up on at Warrnambool,” said Leishman.

“It was my first trip to America coming to this golf course for the Junior World in 2001. And you’ve got to be pretty precise around here, but there’s places you can miss it. If you know where those places are and those places where you can’t hit it, I think you can get it around if you don’t have your best stuff, which I probably showed on Sunday last year.

“Yeah, I enjoy being here, I love San Diego. I’ve got some friends that I’ve known for a long time here in town. Just love coming to Torrey Pines.

“I’m feeling good. The Sony Open was great, I played well at Maui as well, just putted a little better at Sony. It’s been well documented I didn’t have my best stuff towards the middle and end of last year after we had the break.

“I’ve got that under control and that’s in the past, so I’m ready to go for this week. Yeah, I feel like my game’s in a pretty good spot. Obviously it starts at zero Thursday morning, so you’ve got to earn whatever you get. Yeah, feeling good about this week.”

Leishman struggled for much of 2020 after his great start to the year but like so many others found the issues surrounding COVID very disruptive.

“It (2020) was very frustrating,” added the 37 year old. “I played really good at the start of last year and then once COVID hit, sort of got — lost all momentum, sort of took me a long time to get used to playing with nobody around.

“I don’t normally play on weeks off, so most of the time that I play it’s at a tournament, so it was weird. But when you go through something like that, I think you’ve got to try and take the positives out of it.

“One, I didn’t get COVID, no one in my family got COVID, but two, you can’t always be on top of your game as much as you would love to be and that just makes you appreciate when you are playing well a lot more. That’s why you celebrate your wins, and I celebrated this one pretty well last year.”

Leishman is one of nine Australians in this week’s field the others being two-time winner and once runner-up in the event, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Cameron Smith, Cameron Davis, Aaron Baddeley, Matt Jones, Cameron Percy and Rhein Gibson.

Interestingly, Scott has played this event just once, that coming in 2019 when he finished runner-up to Justin Rose.

They will be joined by two New Zealanders, Danny Lee and Tim Wilkinson.

The favourite for the event is likely to be Jon Rahm who in just four starts at Torrey Pines has recorded a win, a runner-up finish and a 5th place. Rahm began the year well with a 7th place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and appears likely to contend to the death.

Rory McIlroy has played this event just twice and has been 3rd and 5th. While he has played sparingly of late, Rahm did produce some fine golf when 3rd in Abu Dhabi last week and must be considered one of Rahm’s main threats.

One who might be worth consideration at slightly longer odds is Tony Finau who has gone close to winning in recent weeks and who enjoys a good record at Torrey Pines. Finau has been placed inside the top six in three of his last four starts  in this event and was 4th last week in La Quinta.

Finau struggles to win events, in fact he has won only once on the PGA Tour and that came in 2016, but as the old saying goes if you put yourself into contention often enough it will happen at some stage.

The US$7,500 event is played over the North and South courses at Torrey Pines on the opening two days before focusing on the South Course over the weekend.