Leishman rejoins PGA Tour in New Orleans with new outlook
AVONDALE, La. (AP) Marc Leishman fully expects to be rusty this week in the Zurich Classic, not that he's all that concerned.
His outlook has been transformed since he took the past month off from the PGA Tour to be with family and tend to his two young boys while wife Audrey fought off an infection that nearly killed her.
''This time probably three weeks ago, I thought I might not have been able to be back out here, to be honest,'' the Australian said as he walked down the first fairway at the TPC Louisiana during Wednesday's pro-am.
''It was looking like I was going to be a stay-at-home dad and kind of hang the clubs up,'' he added. ''Definitely, a bogey is obviously still frustrating, but it's been well and truly put into perspective in terms of how quickly your life can be turned upside down.''
Leishman, who withdrew from the Masters this month, has not played a tour event since missing the cut in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 20.
''My expectations are very low this week,'' he said. ''You never know what can happen, but I'm not expecting a whole lot, really. It would be nice just to knock the rust off.''
The Zurich Classic field has its share of players who have been in good form lately, including five of the top-20 players in the world: Jason Day (6th), Dustin Johnson (7th), Justin Rose (9th), Ricky Fowler (13th) and 2013 Zurich Classic champion Billy Horschel (19th).
''It's been a really good year,'' said Johnson, who has five top-six finishes in his past six tournaments, including a victory at the World Golf Championships event at Doral last month and a tie for sixth at the Masters. ''I've been working pretty hard on the game, and then also I've been working really hard in the gym.''
Also in the field is defending champion Sueng-Yul Noh - but with a new trainer and new swing coach, which Noh said may have contributed to ''a little struggle at the start of the season.''
The South Korean has missed the cut in three of his past five tournaments, including last week at Hilton Head, South Carolina, but did make the cut at the Masters, where he tied for 38th.
Noh noted that the already long (7,425-yard), par-72 TPC Louisiana is playing even longer than usual because of heavy rain the past couple weeks, which makes the course ''a little tougher than last year.''
The soggy conditions didn't appear to faze to Leishman, who looked at ease while shooting 6 under in the pro-am.
''To be back out here, back on a golf course, is pretty relaxing, pretty therapeutic, I'd say, at the moment,'' he said.
Leishman, who lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, said his wife became gravely ill after contracting what initially appeared to be flu symptoms. Then her lungs filled with fluid while her organs began to fail from toxic shock.
Doctors placed her under a medically induced coma and informed Leishman that only about 5 percent of people survive once their health has deteriorate to such an extent.
Leishman, whose boys are 3 years old and about 20 months old, had to figure out how to respond when his older son, Harvey, asked for his mother.
''Harvey was old enough to know what was going on. Ollie wasn't; he was just being himself, which was really a breath of fresh air when things weren't looking really good,'' Leishman recalled. ''Harvey would say, `I want my mummy, I want my mummy.' I had to tell him, `Hopefully mummy will be home soon.' But it was pretty grim there for quite a while, so it was tough to know what to tell him. It was a pretty emotional couple weeks.''
Now, Audrey Leishman is home, able to get out of bed and even climb stairs, although ongoing rehabilitation to regain her strength is expected to take a couple months. Her parents, brothers and many longtime friends live in Virginia Beach, making it easier for her husband to return to work confident that she is in good hands.
''Obviously, I wouldn't be out here if she wasn't well on the road to recovery,'' Leishman said. ''She said, `Don't worry about us; we've got plenty of support.' It was good.''