Marc Leishman has some ground to make up if he is to catch Cameron Smith and win his first major title at home in today’s final round of the Australian PGA. And if he is successful it could well be a shot that Leishman has and few others possess that could prove the difference.
During Thursday’s opening round, the Victorian was struggling to get going before hitting driver off the deck at the par-5 3rdto setup a birdie and get his round going in the right direction, Leishman eventually shooting four-under-par. And the 35-year-old told Golf Australia magazine it is a shot he uses quite regularly and has more than one benefit.
“I do it a lot, I do it probably average two or three times a week,” Leishman said. “It’s just good because I can’t miss it left. Wherever I aim, I know it’s going to be right of that. So it’s either going to go straight or fade. I love it, it’s a pretty good club.
“The other day on three, I knew if I aimed right of the water it wasn’t going to go left, and obviously there is exceptions, you’re occasionally going to pull it but it is very rare. It’s a fun shot, it’s actually a drill that I do occasionally if I’m not hitting my driver great, I’ll throw a few on the ground, because you have to get it right at the bottom of the apex, you don’t want to be trying to lift it in the air or anything. I enjoy it and it’s a pretty handy shot.”
Apart from having one miss and golf swing benefits, the driver off the deck also gives Leishman another 20 yards on his 3-wood, which he has setup to draw for maximum distance. The added distance – the driver carrying 280 yards off the fairway – allowing him to attack golf courses from a distance other players who struggle to hit the large headed modern drivers from the ground might be forced to layup from.
“If you’ve got 280-290 yards, I can’t hit a 3-wood that far, I’ll hit the driver as long as it is lying decent,” Leishman said. “I’ve hit some really good ones, I hit one to about a foot in Korea a few weeks ago. I do it all the time.
Right: Leishman is hoping to use the shot to chase down close mate Cameron Smith at the Australian PGA. PHOTO: Scott Barbour/Getty Images.
“Yeah definitely. I think it is,” he added when asked if it was advantage over other players. “I would say I am a fairly aggressive player and like I say, if you’ve got an extra 20 yards off the fairway it is just really handy.”
Hitting the rare shot hasn’t always been a part of Warrnambool’s favourite son’s repertoire, and despite hitting the shot week in, week out, Leishman doesn’t setup his driver any differently than his competitors. But testing the driver off the deck is certainly part of the process he undertakes before putting a new model in play.
“I will hit them off a tee and then I will hit them off the deck and if I can’t hit it off the deck, I might go for a different driver, because it is a really handy shot,” Leishman said of how he tests new models.
“Pretty much ever since I’ve gone to Callaway, I found it’s pretty easy to get off the ground. And I just love doing it. It’s always a crowd pleaser and if I can’t get there with my 3-wood I’ll go with my driver.”
Unlike some other coaches, Leishman’s long-time instructor Denis McDade is also fan of the shot. Whereas the ball flight inconsistency of a club with its centre of gravity located in a position for ideal launch conditions off a high tee makes others question the shot’s consistency, it is the predictability combined with the correction of Leishman’s common swing fault that means McDade encourages his star pupil to use the unique shot.
“He loves it, because he has seen me hit it. He knows there is only one miss, it is either going to go dead straight or right,” Leishman said of McDade. “If there is trouble left I am not going to hit it in there.
“That is the tendency of mine to get too steep, so it’s a good drill to shallow it out, because if you get too steep with driver off the deck it’s not going to get in the air. For more than one reason it’s a good shot.”
If the opportunity arises during the final round at Royal Pines to take advantage of the shot and he heads back to America with the Joe Kirkwood Cup in his luggage, one of Leishman's primary goals, it could go from a good shot to a great one.