He’s just become a Dad for the third time and his wife is in her best health since almost dying two years ago. The only thing that could make Marc Leishman any happier would be to win The Open Championship this week.
Back in April 2015 Leishman held a 96-hour bedside vigil next to his wife, Audrey, as she fought to stay alive. Doctors told him to expect the worst as her body was shutting down as a result of toxic shock syndrome. They gave her a five percent chance of survival.
Thankfully she did survive and on July 6 she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Eva. The Leishman’s call her their “miracle baby”.
“I didn’t think we would have more kids. Two years ago I didn’t think I’d have a wife,” Leishman said. “Audrey’s done really well to get back to where she is. Now we’ve got a little girl we call our miracle baby.
“I’m in trouble now … I’ve heard girls can wrap you around their little finger. She’s already got me wrapped,” he laughed. “It will be very different to raising the boys but it will be good, I’m looking forward to it.”
RIGHT: New Dad Marc with baby Eva. PHOTO: Facebook
The 33-year-old looked relaxed and happy as he played his first practice round at Royal Birkdale ahead of the 146th Open, which starts on Thursday. Perhaps, more importantly, he was striking the ball well.
“I think whenever you’re happy off the course that’s a good place for your golf,” he said. “I’ve been pretty happy all year, especially this year, and even last year but there were still some little things to worry about with Audrey’s health. But now she is pretty much in the clear so as family we’re really happy.
“I’m a real believer that when you have a good balance between golf and life, and you’re happy off the course, you’ll play your best on the course. The results on course this year have shown that.”
Leishman’s run of good form started with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. More recently, he’s had a string of top-30 finishes and his last PGA Tour start at the Quicken Loans National earlier this month yielded a tie for fifth place.
The Victorian has had some near misses in majors during the past few years, most notably when he was defeated in a play-off at The Open in 2015 at St Andrews, having had a putt for the win on the 72nd green.
“As far as starting that Open and starting this one, I feel like my game is in a better spot." – Marc Leishman
He shot 64-66 that weekend, showing all the attributes of a fine links player that could, one day, win The Open. Perhaps that day is closer than some may think.
““Obviously that was a great week for me, could have been an awesome week. It would be nice to go that one step further and play like a did at St Andrews and walk away with the Claret Jug,” Leishman said.
“As far as starting that Open and starting this one, I feel like my game is in a better spot.
“That Open taught me that you have to manage everything well to get into contention. If you get a tough side of the draw, you need to put your game in damage control, you don’t really want to let it get away from you if you can help it.
“I played in pretty tough conditions the first two rounds at St Andrews and my scores were away from where the leaders were but I still played well to be in that position.
“I think it (winning a major) is the next step, but it’s a pretty big step. Those close chances like I had at St Andrews, you learn from those experiences. You look at the little things … where you could have saved a shot on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, and you think at the end of the week, if you win by one or two or lose by one or two, its generally those little things that count.
“If you win, those little mistakes early in the tournament didn’t happen, if you lose, they did.
“I feel like I’m ready for it and hopefully I can play good and give myself a chance this week.”
“It definitely has some similarities with the Sandbelt. It’s not as wide but like playing the Sandbelt, you need to control your ball once it hits the ground." – Leishman on the Royal Birkdale course.
Warrnambool’s favourite son already feels right at home on the Birkdale course, likening it in many ways to the great courses of the Melbourne Sandbelt, where he played throughout his teenage years.
“It’s a tough but fair course. You need plenty of imagination around the greens,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of drivers to hit, you just need to place your tee shots in the right spots. I like having to think my way around the golf course and this is one that certainly offers plenty of options, and you have to pick the right one.
“You hit good shots and you get rewarded because they’re not really undulating fairways. You won’t see drives hit down the middle of the fairway suddenly shoot sideways into the rough.
“It definitely has some similarities with the Sandbelt. It’s not as wide but like playing the Sandbelt, you need to control your ball once it hits the ground.
“Obviously when it’s windy you have to control it in the air as well but you have to keep it under control when it lands. I enjoy shaping shots, I like shaping it into the wind, which I learned in Melbourne, so when it does hit the ground you have got control. You don’t want the ball drifting on the wind and then bouncing out of control off a green or into a bush.”
Leishman will be keeping a low profile around Birkdale for the next few days, with just nine holes of practice planned for Tuesday and Wednesday. Instead, he plans to keep his short game sharp and not expend too much energy on practice.
“You don’t want to be worn out on Sunday when you’re trying to win a tournament,” he smiled.