On the PGA Tour, wins frequently come when you least expect it. Whether it’s a player’s first career victory or one that ends a long winless drought, victories are tough to come by and they often surprise you.
For veteran tour pro Marc Leishman, his latest win at the Farmers Insurance Open wasn’t shocking, but certainly wasn’t expected. Leishman put together a magical final round at Torrey Pines last week and came back from four strokes behind to capture his fifth career PGA Tour title.
The win snapped a fifteen-month winless stretch and was the latest twist to a career that has been through extreme ups and downs on and off the golf course
We caught up with the affable Australian for “A Quick Nine”, as he opened up about his latest victory, teeing it up with Tiger Woods and his new perspective on life that has completely changed his game.
SI: What a week at Torrey Pines. You pretty much came out of nowhere on Sunday to win the Farmers Insurance Open. You were four strokes back to start the day with names like Rahm, McIlroy and Tiger on the leaderboard. Did you surprise yourself by winning this one?
Marc Leishman: Not really. Four back on that golf course is not that much. I knew I needed to get off to a fast start and I was lucky to do that, but I've come from further back than that before.
SI: Is it almost freeing as a golfer to be a bunch of strokes back on Sunday and just say, ‘Hey, I could just go play well and if I do that I might put myself in position?'
ML: Yeah, exactly. I won't lie, I’d rather be playing with the lead but when you are behind you know that if you don't play well, you're not going to win. There's no chance.
I had to go out there and play well and I was lucky enough to do that. I've had a couple of leads at Torrey Pines in previous years on Sunday and haven't capitalized on it so getting the lead fairly early in the day and to hold on and come out on top was really satisfying
SI: The win ironically comes on Australia day. Your home country has been through a lot over the past month dealing with the devastating brush fires. What's the one thing people should know about Australians and what they've endured over these last few weeks?
ML: It’s pretty devastating. I think there’s an area bigger than West Virginia that's been burned. A lot of people have died and lost houses. The Australians, we stick together. They're resilient people. They’ll fight back from this, but they've got a big long road ahead of them, unfortunately.
It’s been good to give them a little bit of joy with some good golf, you know, from myself and Cam Smith and Lucas Herbert winning.
SI: You were back in Australia last month for the President's Cup in your home country. Your international team led for most of the matches until the Americans came back on the final day to win. Can you guys beat this current U.S. team?
ML: There’s no doubt we can. We came close this year. I think we're on the right track now and have a really good plan. We played pretty well but the American team is so strong with 12 great players on their team, and we know we’ve got to play really well to beat them.
I think we're on the right track and it was nice that the matches were close. Hopefully next time we can get a couple more putts to fall and grab a few more points and come out on top.
SI: You’ve been on the PGA Tour now for 12 years. You’ve had plenty of ups and downs on the course and certainly away from the golf course. You dealt with a frightening emergency involving your wife Audrey. If you look back at the person you were when you started on tour in 2009 and the guy you are now, how have you changed?
ML: I think I'm a lot more relaxed on the course and I enjoy the pressure a lot more. I love the golf pressure. I guess dealing with golf pressure is real but dealing with the pressure of signing pieces of paper and consenting to procedures that could potentially kill my wife. That’s REAL pressure. I handle the golf pressure a lot better now.
I’m very calm on the weekends coming down the stretch knowing that I’m doing everything I can to win the tournament but if I don’t, I still get to come home to my wife and kids. Knowing that has helped me be a bit more carefree.
I’d say my perspective has changed quite a bit.
SI: Tell me about life on the PGA Tour. What’s the best part about being on Tour?
ML: The best part about being on tour is certainly contending for a tournament. Getting out there and getting the competitive juices flowing and playing in front of the crowd. I love playing in front of crowds. I think that’s the best part about it.
SI: How about the hardest part?
ML: Definitely the travel and being away from the family. There’s ups and downs, you have good days and bad days. I think it helps if you’ve got a certain type of personality to deal with those bad days which are going to come along. You can get pretty down on yourself easily.
I think the best bit of advice I ever got from Nathan Green my first year on tour. He said, “You’re going to make 90% of your money in 10% of your starts.” I always try and look back on that when I’m having a couple of bad weeks. Like at the end of last year and over in Asia I kept thinking it’s going to eventually turn around.
RA: If you had one round to play with three fellow tour pros, who would you choose to play with?
ML: Hmm. It would be Tiger, Cameron Smith and Harold Varner. We’d have a lot of fun.
SI: You’ve played with Tiger a bunch. How different is it playing with him now compared to when you first played with him years ago?
ML: I remember the first time I played with Tiger. I was a nervous wreck on the first tee. It was my rookie year and it was the year he won the BMW. I was in second or third place and I knew I needed to finish in second place to qualify for the Tour Championship and I was nervous.
Now I'm quite relaxed with him. We've played a lot together and get along quite well. Instead of being nervous I always look forward to playing with Tiger.
SI: Speaking of the BMW, you were involved in a funny moment a few years ago at the event. You were asked an odd question by a reporter who asked, ‘Do you know what you don't know?’
Your reaction at the time was priceless. Have you had time to think about that question? And what's your answer now?
ML: (Laughs) Yeah, I’ve had two years to think about that and I think I'm more confused now than I was when she asked the question! (Laughs)
Apparently, you do know what you don't know, but I thought I was 100% right saying no at the time. Unfortunately, I've got no idea what the right answer is to that question. (Laughs)