MARC Leishman will be the first to tell you that when it comes to the majors, the US Masters and The Open are the two that suit his game best.
The 38-year-old owns three top-10s in the Masters and three top-6s in The Open.
At press time, he still did not have a top-10 in 21 combined starts in the US Open and US PGA Championship. Clearly, Augusta National and the links courses of the UK remind Leishman of home and he relishes the creativity required to thrive on them.
Inside Golf caught up with the Victorian native to discuss what it means to be going back to his close call at St Andrews for The Open starting July 14 as well as the state of his game.
IG: Marc, how do you feel your game matches up in the majors?
Leishman: Typically, the Masters and British Open are two of my best majors. With the others I have less expectations and try and enjoy my golf. I know I play my best golf when I’m having fun. And, as we know, good golf usually comes with having fun. But there’s a different mindset for me when I play the Open and the Masters.
Why do you think you played so well in the 2015 Open?
I remember not caring at all how I played. It was not soon after that my wife had gotten really sick. So I remember playing free on every hole. Not really caring where the ball went, just making sure I put a good swing on it and not really caring about the result. That worked well for me. Hopefully, I can use a similar strategy that I used there when I play it this time.
I know the course really well. I’ve played there a lot and really love St Andrews. It’s one that I set myself for and I’m working on shots for that major already – even while I’m playing in PGA Tour events.
Why do you love the course?
You just have to hit good shots. That’s the great part of it. You have to control your ball in the air and on the ground as well so that means a lot of the time shaping it into the wind, keeping it low and out of the wind if you can, judging bounces, using imagination around the greens. It’s funny, flop shots are almost out of the question there. You’re working out how to get a ball close with hills rather than spin and I really enjoy that.
Is there any sting from that playoff loss?
It’s obviously disappointing to look back on it now and to know how close I was to winning because you don’t often get chances to win majors. At the time it didn’t affect me too much, but as time goes on you sort of think about it a little bit. And you think about what could have been, but it hasn’t changed my life or anything like that. But I certainly think about it every now and again. Hopefully, I can play well this year and really give myself another chance.
What would it mean to you to at least be in the hunt again at St Andrews?
I think I learned so much last time. I’ve had other chances in majors since then as well so it would be huge to give myself a chance again at St Andrews. But a lot of things have to go my way and I’ve got to get the right breaks. I’m certainly not getting ahead of myself but I’m excited about that one.
What is it about links golf that works so well for you?
I like the creativity and it helps that I grew up on it. That’s a big thing. It feels pretty natural to me to hit the ball low and shape it. I’ve had to work on hitting the ball higher since I’ve come to America. I’ve been over here for 15 years, but I enjoy hitting it low and using imagination. You know you have to hit your spots around the greens; you have to chip it onto a square foot area and let a hill do something. If you miss your area you could look foolish. I like that.
We know you love a good beer, how much do you enjoy grabbing a beer when you’re in the old town of St Andrews?
I enjoy that part of the week as well. In 2015, I remember having a couple of beers with dinner and soaking up the atmosphere because it’s a fun tournament. It’s a fun tournament to go to as a fan and watch. It’s a fun tournament to play in and I try and make the most of it. It’s nice to have a beer or two every now and again. It’s not going to affect me too much and I just like to enjoy myself and I like to make the most of it.
How do you feel about your game right now?
It feels good at the moment. I feel like I’ve been playing well all season really. The results haven’t really been there, which has been frustrating. But I feel like I’ve got all the shots. It’s just a matter of executing them and to just keep doing the right things, which I have been doing, and things will turn around. The results haven’t been bad, but obviously I want to be contending and trying to win tournaments, not trying to finish 20th or 30th which I’ve been doing. So it’s been frustrating but I feel like I’m really close to something good and hopefully it can be in the next couple of months.
Any swing thoughts you’ve been working on lately?
I’m not really a swing thought kind of guy. I let the shot that I’m hitting dictate the swing I need to use. So, I’ll look at what shot I want to hit from the lie and situation and that dictates where I setup and where my weight is and all of that.
Honestly, that’s probably why I enjoy playing in the wind so much because that’s a situation where I don’t need to have any swing thoughts. Generally when I’m having swing thoughts it means I’m not playing well. But the big thing for me is letting the golf shot dictate the swing.
SPIKENOTE: Garrett Johnston has covered 30 major championships as a freelance journalist. You can follow his podcast Beyond the Clubhouse with players, caddies, and broadcasters and catch him on Twitter @JohnstonGarrett.