Trin­ity For­est quickly grows on Leish­man

Montreal Gazette - - SPORTS - SCHUYLER DIXON

DAL­LAS Marc Leish­man en­joyed the old home of the AT&T By­ron Nelson as much as any­one, con­sid­er­ing he made the last nine trips there and had one of the best scor­ing av­er­ages in tour­na­ment his­tory.

The Aus­tralian might take a lik­ing to the new place as well.

Leish­man shot a 10-un­der 61 on the links-style Trin­ity For­est course to take the first-round lead Thurs­day and was eight shots clear of home­town star Jor­dan Spi­eth in the event that re­turned to Dal­las af­ter 35 years at the TPC Four Sea­sons in sub­ur­ban Irv­ing, Texas.

Con­sid­er­ing the crit­i­cisms of Trin­ity For­est from oth­ers — men­tioned vaguely by play­ers who did show up — Leish­man wouldn’t have needed much to join that cho­rus af­ter a his­tory of high fin­ishes in Irv­ing de­spite a cou­ple of re­cent missed cuts.

In­stead, Leish­man opened with an ea­gle, started the back nine with three straight birdies and reached 9 un­der with an­other ea­gle at the 14th.

The 34-year-old, a three-time PGA Tour win­ner, had chances to go lower, but set­tled for a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-three 17th for the low­est round of his PGA Tour ca­reer. He was a stroke shy of the Nelson record.

“Prob­a­bly would have been the harsh­est critic, I think,” Leish­man said with a smile. “I played very well over there. When I got here and saw in­stantly, you know, was happy that we’re here and it’s just a cool spot.”

J.J. Spaun and Texan Jimmy Walker were three shots back at 64. Spaun had six birdies in a span of seven holes for a 30 on his sec­ond nine: the front nine on the un­du­lat­ing lay­out with no trees or wa­ter haz­ards a few miles south of down­town Dal­las.

Walker had a chance to get to 8 un­der when his shot from the edge of a fair­way bunker on 18 rolled within a foot of the cup be­fore set­tling 14 feet away. He missed the birdie putt.

Sam Saun­ders, Aaron Wise and Keith Mitchell shot match­ing 65s play­ing in the first group off the first tee. They were part of an eight-way tie four shots be­hind Leish­man. Defending cham­pion Billy Horschel shot 68.

Corey Con­ners of Lis­towel, Ont., and Nick Tay­lor of Ab­bots­ford, B.C., were the top Cana­di­ans af­ter each fir­ing a 69, while Ben Sil­ver­man of Thorn­hill, Ont., carded a 70 and David Hearn of Brant­ford, Ont., was at even-par 71.

Spi­eth, one of just two world top-10 play­ers in the Nelson field at No. 3, didn’t have many chances and missed on some of the few that he did, start­ing with a short birdie putt for a dis­ap­point­ing par 5 on the open­ing hole.

It was an­other frus­trat­ing round for the 24-year-old Spi­eth, a Trin­ity For­est mem­ber who was hop­ing the venue change would help him top his best Nelson fin­ish. That was a tie for 16th when he was a 16-year-old am­a­teur play­ing for a pri­vate high school in Dal­las.

Spi­eth had just three birdies when the course was at its eas­i­est be­cause of calm winds. His bo­gey on the short par-4 fifth came af­ter he drove the green and then sent an 82-foot putt off it.

“Look­ing back the last year and a half I’ve had maybe four, five op­por­tu­ni­ties where I’ve ac­tu­ally been in a tour­na­ment af­ter the first round, which is re­ally frus­trat­ing,” Spi­eth said. “Thurs­days for what­ever rea­son just haven’t been good days for me.”

Marc Leish­man

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