Marc Leishman says his beefed-up driving has boosted his chances of winning the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament after a sensational start to the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event in Ohio.
World No.24 Leishman is well in contention after the first round of the prestigious invitational at Muirfield Village Golf Club courtesy of a five-under-par 67 which left him just two shots off the pace.
American Ryan Moore made light work of the difficult par-72 course with a 65 to take the first-round lead, one shot ahead of three-time major winner Jordan Spieth (66).
While big-name countrymen Adam Scott and Jason Day failed to climb the leaderboard, Leishman is poised for another strong result at Muirfield Village – tied third with Anirban Lahiri and two-time major winner Martin Kaymer.
Leishman has three top-15s in his past three Memorial starts, but says a longer, more accurate driver will help his dream of lifting the trophy and shaking 18-time major winner Nicklaus' hand on Sunday.
"In the last four years in particular, I've been driving a lot better," Leishman said after hitting nine of 14 fairways.
"If you can get it on the fairway here, they're generous but if you miss them, they're very penalising."
RIGHT: Woods is seeking his 82nd victory on the PGA Tour. PHOTO: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images.
With a tie for 49th his best result from his past three events on the PGA Tour, Leishman feels his form is coming around in time for the US Open at Pebble Beach in two weeks.
"I had a couple rough months," Leishman said.
"My body wasn't feeling great and I wasn't driving it as well as I would have liked, and the putter was cold.
"My game is coming back around. I would love to leave here with a win.
"But it will be a pretty good warm-up for what is going to be probably a pretty brutal US Open."
Tiger Woods, a five-time Memorial champion, mixed four birdies with two bogeys to post a tidy 70 and he sits at two under.
Major winners and former World No.1s Day and Scott were grouped together but failed to live up to their billing.
Scott managed a respectable 71 to sit one-under the card, while Muirfield Village member and Columbus resident Day struggled to a sloppy 75.
Aaron Baddeley (72) is next best of the Australians at even par while Matt Jones (75) is tied with Day at three over.
Cameron Smith rounded out the Australian contingent and posted a 77.
- Evin Priest, Australian Associated Press