SEOUL (Reuters) - Marc Leishman will be looking to claim a second successive title on the U.S. PGA Tour’s Asia swing and hope to make up for an agonizing near-miss when he tees it up at the CJ Cup in South Korea starting on Thursday.
After a winless 2017-18 campaign, the burly Australian started the new season with a bang at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, blitzing a quality field by five strokes on Sunday after a stellar week on the greens.
Leishman will also be eager to tear into the Nine Bridges course after last year’s heartbreak, when his victory hopes sunk in a water hazard on the second extra hole of a playoff against eventual winner Justin Thomas.
The disappointment proved to be a taste of things to come for Leishman, who was also runner-up at the Byron Nelson and had four other top-10 finishes in a solid but ultimately frustrating year.
Back in the winner’s circle, the 34-year-old is keen to cash in at the $9.5 million tournament in Korea.
“I’m excited to be back in Korea, I have a lot of good memories here. It’s going to be a good week. Hopefully, I can play well again and go one better than last year,” he said.
“The course is amazing. I think the fairways are firmer than they were last year, they’re a little shorter. The greens are perfect again... I’m excited to get out there on Thursday and get into it.”
Now a Virginia resident, Leishman has been a regular on the PGA Tour for years but is no stranger to South Korean golf, having played the local circuit in 2006 when starting out as a professional.
“The KPGA (Tour) was a very good experience,” he said. “I met a lot of friends, a lot of Korean golfers that I’m still friends with now.
“Traveling in a foreign country by myself, that teaches you things very quickly.”
Leishman will again lock horns with former world number one Thomas, who finished strongly at the CIMB Classic, a tournament he has won twice before, to tie for fifth and the American should hit Nine Bridges full of confidence.
The 78-player field also includes the PGA Tour’s 2017-18 player of the year Brooks Koepka, who won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship last season, and major-winning Australian duo Adam Scott and Jason Day.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by John O'Brien