20 Apr 2023 | Professional golf |
Leishman doubly motivated for Grange success
by Tony Webeck
It is the empty space on Marc Leishman’s resumé that the Victorian is desperate to fill.
As he and his Ripper GC team-mates return to Australia for this week’s LIV Golf Adelaide event at Grange Golf Club, Leishman is the sole representative without a win of significance in his home country.
Captain Cameron Smith is a three-time winner of the Australian PGA Championship (2017, 2018, 2022), Matt Jones is a two-time Australian Open champion (2015, 2019) and Jed Morgan made history with his 11-stroke victory at the Australian PGA in January 2022.
A six-time winner on the PGA TOUR, the biggest win Leishman has enjoyed on home soil is the 2008 Victorian PGA Championship when it was part of the secondary Von Nida Tour.
He and good mate Smith went head-to-head at the 2018 Australian PGA at Royal Pines before his younger countryman sealed a second-straight Joe Kirkwood Cup.
It makes this week, in conditions he knows all too well, a rare opportunity to not only be part of an all-Australian team win but to add an individual milestone in the process.
“Definitely be a few nerves. The crowds are going to be so big it won’t really matter what hole you’re off,” Leishman said of the prospect of first-tee nerves on Friday.
“We all want to play really well there. And I’d love to win individually but as a team as well.
“We haven’t been on the podium at a regular event yet and we really want to do that.”
And if his captain is any judge of form, Leishman might be timing his run to perfection.
In a practice round earlier in the week, Leishman and Smith paired up to get the better of Morgan and Jones, the reigning Open champion thrilled to have been partnered again with his 2018 World Cup team-mate.
“After what he did out on the course this morning… I was happy to be Leish’s partner I can tell you that much,” Smith quipped, Jones equally effusive in his praise of the 39-year-old’s play.
To do so, however, Leishman will need to best a field laden with players with impressive resumes of their own.
There are 13 major champions among the 12 four-man teams including Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer along with PGA TOUR winners and Australian Open champions in Lee Westwood and Abraham Ancer.
Although the members of Ripper GC have next to no experience at Grange Golf Club itself, the conditions and style of golf course is expected to play in their favour.
Measuring just 6,946 yards, length will not be one of Grange’s primary defences, its fast-running fairways and closely-mown areas around the greens all too familiar for the Aussie quartet.
“It's nice to be back in Australian turf conditions,” Leishman added.
“It's great turf conditions all around the world, but you can just tell when you're in Australia.
“It's firmer, it's fast around the greens, and it's just different.
“I think just our years of playing on these turf conditions might be a little advantage rather than knowing the course well, if that makes sense.
“I’ve heard that there’s some strategic golf needed. Not just ripping driver everywhere and hitting it as far as you can. There are a few doglegs and the rough is quite long so it should be tough enough but still reward good play, which is what you want.”
As for how Ripper GC might toast an Aussie win in Adelaide, Leishman had a suggestion as to what could be the first celebratory drink consumed.
“Leishman Lagers will be at the golf course; I’m sure they’ll be plenty of that flowing,” Leishman offered.
“I’m assuming it would go well into Monday. I hope we have that to worry about.”
Added Smith: “Probably just find a local pub that we like and try to shut it down. That’d be about it.
“I hope we do, to be honest. As much as we want to win every week, I think it'd be extra special to have our first win down there.”
Smith has been paired with fellow team captains Brooks Koepka and Ian Poulter for the opening round with the remaining members of Ripper GC all playing together in the group behind.
Play begins on Friday in a shotgun start at 11.45am.
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