Marc Leishman is hoping to secure his first Australian Open title this week in front of a home crowd, with the Warrnambool product expecting to see many familiar faces at Victoria and Kingston Heath golf clubs.
Leishman was tied for 10th when the Australian Open was last played – a second Matt Jones triumph at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney in 2019 – and hopes to make the most of his return to Melbourne’s famed sandbelt.
“It’s one of the things that I haven’t managed to do in my career so far, is win one of the big events in Australia and certainly an Australian Open is probably the top of that list, particularly in Melbourne,” said Leishman on the eve of the ISPS HANDA Australian Open.
It’s been three years since Leishman was last in Melbourne, and the prospect of having family and friends he hasn’t seen in that time lining the course is something he is looking forward to.
“There’ll be a lot of family coming out,” Leishman added.
“My sister and her husband and kids are coming up. I’ve got cousins and friends that I haven’t seen for over three years that I’ll see on the golf course tomorrow or at some point during the week.
“So definitely I’ve got a lot of incentive to play well. Not only to try and win an Australian Open but to try and give them something to cheer about and smile about.”
Having the chance to watch the stars of the game play live as a young golfer provided Leishman with some invaluable memories, and a treasured memento.
He was given a golf ball – a Maxfli to be precise – by none other than Greg Norman at the 1991 Australian Masters at Huntingdale and hopes he can provide a similar experience for those in attendance this week.
“My first Australian Open I went to was at Metropolitan, where Lee Westwood won in a play-off,” recalled Leishman, who along with Lucas Herbert, Zach Murray and the late Jarrod Lyle played pennants for Commonwealth Golf Club.
“That was a pretty special one and I’m hoping I can make some really good memories this week with my own play.
“You see guys that you’ve watched on TV playing in front of big crowds and they hit a good shot and get a big cheer. You want to be that person. It’s cool to put a smile on people’s faces by hitting a golf shot.”
Leishman is heading into the week comfortable with where his game sits, having shot a four-under final round to finish tied for 12th at last week’s Fortinet Australian PGA Championship in Brisbane.
“I actually played pretty well all week last week,” said the world No.74.
“Just couldn’t quite work out the greens, but I don’t think I was the only one that had that issue. The game’s feeling good.
“I think we’ll have a completely different golf course Saturday, so I think it’s important to put yourself into a good position. Obviously make sure you’re playing Saturday firstly. But then I think experience could come in when that northerly comes up.”
For the first time the men’s and women’s fields will compete for their respective Australian Opens on the same course at the same time, a change that Leishman fully welcomes.
“I just hope it goes off really well, because I think it’s a great concept,” he said.
“Great for families. If you’ve got a boy and girl, come out and they can see both men and women playing.
“I think that’s a good thing for golf.”