CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Marc Leishman has an outstanding recent record in the British Open, but he knows he’ll be playing second fiddle to Rory McIlroy when he plays with the Northern Irishman in the first two rounds this week.
Quiet achiever Leishman has finished in the top six in three of the past four Opens, not least in 2015 at St. Andrews, where he was beaten by Zach Johnson in a three-way playoff.
Leishman invariably slides into town under the radar, like a party guest invited to make up the numbers who nearly ends up stealing the silverware.
“Anytime you get a marquee pairing, that’s good, not that you need motivation around here,” the easygoing Australian told a small group of reporters at Carnoustie on Tuesday after practicing a series of exquisite chip shots along the ground with a four-iron at the 18th hole.
“I played with Tiger (Woods) at the Masters and again a couple of weeks ago. I enjoy those high-energy groups.
“The crowd will be pulling for Rory pretty hard I think. Hopefully, I can keep my head down and just grind.”
Leishman, 34, has learned over the years not to push too hard, too early in majors, aware of the old adage that you can’t win a tournament in the first couple of rounds, but you can definitely lose it.
“It’s very easy in majors, especially when it’s tough, to get frustrated by bogeys, or bad breaks, rub of the green things I guess,” he said.
“It’s a long week. You’ve just got to stay in it. You don’t want to throw shots away, which can be easy to do in these events, just because there’s so much trouble out there.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the times I’ve contended here, and other places as well. Every time you’re close and you don’t (win), it’s disappointing but it just makes you want it more.”
Leishman is not one to adopt a Spartan lifestyle in major weeks, preferring instead to keep to his usual routine of enjoying a couple of beers — “nothing excessive” — with dinner, which when in England or Scotland often consists of fish and chips.
“It’s a good week,” he said, no doubt a great week if he lifts the Claret Jug on Sunday.
Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Larry King