Leishman set to seize Masters opportunity

Marc Leishman (Getty)
Marc Leishman (Getty)

Augusta - Marc Leishman got a close-up view of what it takes to win the Masters five years ago, and the 34-year-old Australian is putting those lessons to use at Augusta National.

Leishman, playing in a pressure-cooker group with 14-time major champion Tiger Woods, defied difficult windy conditions to fire a 5-under par 67 on Friday.

His 7-under total of 137 put him two strokes behind halfway leader Patrick Reed and well in the hunt for a first major title.

He has contended at Augusta National before, playing in the final group on Sunday in 2013 alongside Adam Scott - who became the first Aussie to win the Masters that day as Leishman settled for fourth.

"I saw first-hand what it takes to win around here," Leishman said. "You've got to take your opportunities when you get them, take a chance and have it come off, grab the bull by the horns. It's not going to come to you."

It was in that spirit that Leishman produced a sweeping hook around trees that set up his eagle at the par-five 15th.

"It was meant to be about 30 yards of hook," he said. "I probably put about 40 yards of hook on it and it rolled down to the hole.

"At some point of the week you have to take a chance, and I felt like that was an opportunity," said Leishman, who was in the water at the same hole on Thursday.

"I felt like that was the time when I had an opportunity rather than lay up. It's a hard wedge shot there. I gave it a go and it came off and I made eagle."

Leishman had put his name atop the leaderboard early on, opening the round with three straight birdies.

Then came nine straight pars before birdies at 13 and 14 and his big strike at the 15th.

In addition to his challenge for the 2013 title here, Leishman has been within sight of a major title at the 2015 British Open, when he lost to Zach Johnson in a playoff at St. Andrews.

He had missed the Masters that year, withdrawing on the eve of the tournament when his wife Audrey fell gravely ill, suffering Toxic Shock Syndrome that led to near-fatal sepsis.

"You know, I've obviously been through a lot off the course, and I feel like that helps me on the course," he said. "This is one of the biggest tournaments in the world, if not the biggest. One that I probably want to win the most, along with the other three majors.

"At the end of the day, it's a game of golf, and that's how I try and look at it, just as a game of golf. If I'm having fun out there, enjoying it, I feel like that's how I'm going to play my best."

Tee times for the third round of the 2018 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday (a-denotes amateur):

All SA times

16:00: Paul Casey (ENG)

16:10: Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA)

16:20: Tyrrell Hatton (ENG), Phil Mickelson (USA) 

16:30: Webb Simpson (USA), Xander Schauffele (USA)

10:40: Tiger Woods (USA), Ian Poulter (ENG)

16:50: Adam Scott (AUS), Bryson DeChambeau (USA)

17:00: a-Doug Ghim (USA), Bernhard Langer (GER)

17:10: Martin Kaymer (GER), Kim Si-woo (KOR)

17:20: Brian Harman (USA), Daniel Berger (USA)

17:30: Chez Reavie (USA), Kevin Kisner (USA)

17:40: Branden Grace (RSA), Jason Day (AUS)

17:50: Francesco Molinari (ITA), Kyle Stanley (USA)

18:00: Ryan Moore (USA) Jhonattan Vegas (VEN)

18:10: Satoshi Kodaira (JPN), Fred Couples (USA)

18:30: Rafael Cabrera Bello (ESP), Vijay Singh (FIJ)

18:40: Li Haotong (CHN), Russell Henley (USA)

18:50: Tommy Fleetwood (ENG), Adam Hadwin (CAN) 

19:00: Hideki Matsuyama (JPN), Zach Johnson (USA)

19:10: Bernd Wiesberger (AUT), Jimmy Walker (USA) 

19:20: Matt Kuchar (USA), Jon Rahm (ESP) 

19:30: Charley Hoffman (USA), Cameron Smith (AUS)

19:40: Justin Rose (ENG), Bubba Watson (USA)

19:50: Rickie Fowler (USA), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)

20:00: Justin Thomas (USA), Tony Finau (USA)

20:10: Jordan Spieth (USA), Dustin Johnson (USA)

20:20: Henrik Stenson (SWE), Rory McIlroy (NIR)

20:30: Patrick Reed (USA), Marc Leishman (AUS)

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