Leish­man backs good start with a low score at BMW

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Marc Leish­man has a short mem­ory when it comes to golf, which only helped him at the BMW Cham­pi­onship. He for­got all about that 62 in the open­ing round. He was nearly just as good Friday with a 7-un­der 64 to open a three-shot lead over Ja­son Day and Rickie Fowler go­ing into the week­end at Con­way Farms. “I re­ally took that as a chal­lenge to­day, to not take it for granted that you’re just go­ing to make birdies,” Leish­man said. “You still have to earn every birdie. I think when you do get ahead of your­self, that’s when bad stuff can hap­pen.”

There was plenty of good stuff from the guys chas­ing him in the third FedEx Cup play­off event. Day, who has gone 16 months since his last vic­tory, chipped in from be­hind the 14th green for his sec­ond ea­gle of the week, and then added a third ea­gle with one swing. He made a hole-in-one on the 17th hole with a 7-iron that turned into a pay­off for mul­ti­ple par­ties.

It car­ried day to a 65, putting him in the last group on the week­end with Leish­man. BMW awarded $100,000 to the Evans Schol­ars Foun­da­tion, and then Day de­cided to give the car he won to the Evans Schol­ars, which will yield an­other full, four-year schol­ar­ship for an­other stu­dent.

Fowler also chipped in for ea­gle on the reach­able par-4 15th hole on his way to a 64. “The ul­ti­mate goal is to win this week,” Day said. “That’s the thing I’ve been try­ing to do this whole sea­son - at least win once, and try to build on that.”

Leish­man was at 16-un­der 126, two short of the 36-hole record Day set at Con­way Farms two years ago on his way to a wire-to-wire, six-shot vic­tory. Leish­man has some ex­pe­ri­ence with that, but it was long ago and the mem­ory is vague, nat­u­rally. He re­calls open­ing with a 70 at the Toy­ota South­ern Clas­sic on the Von Nida Tour in Aus­tralia and win­ning big.

He al­ready has 18 birdies in 36 holes at Con­way Farms, where the scor­ing av­er­age was a shade un­der 69 through two rounds. It hasn’t been easy for ev­ery­one, par­tic­u­larly de­fend­ing cham­pion Dustin John­son. The world’s No. 1 player can’ seem to buy a putt, and even when he started to make a lit­tle progress, he fin­ished bo­gey-bo­gey by tak­ing two chips to get on the 17th green and hit­ting into the wa­ter on the 18th. Patrick Cant­lay ex­tended his re­mark­able run this sea­son with a 65, leav­ing him alone in fourth place but six shots be­hind. Cant­lay re­turned af­ter three years away to cope with a se­vere back in­jury and the death of his close friend and cad­die, Chris Roth, who was hit by a car as they were walk­ing to din­ner.

Cant­lay is play­ing his 11th tour­na­ment this year, yet he is No. 41 in the FedEx Cup and could

get into the Tour Cham­pi­onship if he fin­ishes in the top 30 af­ter this week. Phil Mick­el­son is try­ing to work his way into the top 30, and while he sput­tered with two birdies, two bo­geys and too many pars, he drilled an ap­proach to 5 feet on the par-5 14th for an ea­gle. He shot 69 and was at 7-un­der 135, in a tie for 12th.

Jor­dan Spi­eth, No. 1 in the FedEx Cup af­ter suc­ces­sive run­ner-up fin­ishes in the play­off events, only man­aged a 70 and joined Mick­el­son in the group at 135. Leish­man is hit­ting his stride at just the right time. Two weeks ago at the TPC Boston, he took a two-shot lead into the back nine only to get passed by Justin Thomas and Spi­eth by shoot­ing 40 on the back nine to fin­ish third be­hind Thomas.

Af­ter a week at home in Vir­ginia, with the clubs never leav­ing the garage, he picked up where he left off. It’s easy to over­look Leish­man be­cause the Aus­tralian has only two PGA Tour vic­to­ries, in­clud­ing the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional ear­lier this year. He’s OK with that, and laughs at hear­ing fans whis­per as he walks by, “Who’s that bloke?” That was his phrase, though ap­par­ently he’s heard it Down Un­der, too. As for that short mem­ory, he does have some spe­cific re­call of tour­na­ments long ago. One of them was eight years ago in the Chicago area. It was his rookie sea­son on the PGA Tour. He made an ea­gle on the 18th hole at the TPC Boston just to ad­vance to the third round at No. 67. Then, he was paired with Tiger Woods in the fi­nal round at Cog Hill. “I re­mem­ber be­ing re­ally, re­ally ner­vous on the first tee, which I’m gen­er­ally not a ner­vous per­son, but that was a new thing for me,” he said.

He also re­mem­bers hav­ing an ea­gle putt on the ninth hole, with Woods well to the right off the tee and then stuck be­hind a tree. Woods hit a 9-iron out of trou­ble and ended up mak­ing birdie, and he went on to win by eight shots. But that was a big day for Leish­man. He tied for sec­ond and ad­vanced to the Tour Cham­pi­onship for the first time, lead­ing to his first ap­pear­ance in the Mas­ters. That’s no longer an is­sue. Leish­man now is No. 7 in the FedEx Cup and sim­ply try­ing to win to get into the top five head­ing to the Tour Cham­pi­onship. — AP

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