PGA Tour

Career-best 61 lifts Leishman to Byron Nelson lead

Marc Leishman (Getty)
Marc Leishman (Getty)

Dallas - Australia's Marc Leishman had two eagles in a 10-under par 61 on Thursday to take a three-shot lead in the PGA Tour's Byron Nelson tournament.

Leishman, who posted the best round of his PGA Tour career, opened with an eagle at the par-five fifth hole at Trinity Forest, the new course south of Dallas, Texas, hosting the tournament for the first time.

He made back-to-back birdies at the sixth and seventh, then birdied three in a row at the 10th, 11th and 12th before rolling in a 13-foot eagle putt at the par-five 14th.

He added one more birdie at the par-three 17th to finish one stroke shy of the tournament record.

The Australian hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation and made every putt he faced from inside 10 feet, but said he never thought about the possibility of firing a 59.

"I didn't want to let myself get ahead of myself which was good," said the 34-year-old, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour.

"Sixty-one - I'll take it," added Leishman, who has posted rounds of 62 four times in his career.

He was three strokes in front of Americans JJ Spaun and Jimmy Walker. Spaun teed off on 10 and after two birdies and a bogey in his first nine he birdied six holes coming in, including four in a row from the second through the fifth and the seventh and eighth.

Walker had five birdies and an eagle on the first for his share of second on 64 one stroke in front of a big group on 65 that included Mexico's Abraham Ancer and American Sam Saunders.

Jordan Spieth was eight adrift in his hometown tournament, which moved the par-71 links-style Trinity Forest after 35 years at TPC Four Seasons in nearby Irving.

Despite it's "forest" moniker, the course on rolling terrain features neither trees nor water hazards.

Leishman, who hit every fairway in regulation, said that was the key.

"The fairways are generous, but if you are off them you are in trouble," he said.

Some of the field's biggest names found the new course inhospitable.

Spain's Sergio Garcia was 11 off the lead after a round that included two birdies and three bogeys. Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and American Matt Kuchar also finished the day one-over.

Kuchar was clearly frustrated during his round, and was circumspect when asked his impressions of Trinity Forest.

"I think best said under the lesson if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," he said.

Garcia said the trouble was his game.

"Course played great," said the Spaniard. "Firming up a bit, but the weather was beautiful, wasn't a lot of wind. I just wasn't able to get it close to the pin."

Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the PGA Tour Byron Nelson tournament in Dallas, Texas (USA unless noted, par-71):

61 - Marc Leishman (AUS)

64 - JJ Spaun, Jimmy Walker

65 - Sam Saunders, Aaron Wise, Keith Mitchell, Abraham Ancer (MEX), Jonathan Byrd, Ethan Tracy, Peter Uihlein, Tyler Duncan

66 - Rory Sabbatini (RSA) Ryan Armour, Branden Grace (RSA), Kevin Na, Seamus Power (IRL), Ryan Blaum, Eric Axley, Robert Garrigus, Tom Lovelady, TJ Vogel, Nicholas Lindheim

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