Golf: Leishman finds new form with putter

By Ben Everill

Australian Marc Leishman finished the first round of the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament  in  Ohio at 6 under par. Photo / AP
Australian Marc Leishman finished the first round of the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament in Ohio at 6 under par. Photo / AP

Marc Leishman has revealed a simple putting change freed up his stroke and helped his surge in form as he led after the first round of the World Golf Championships event in Ohio.

Fresh off a course record equalling seven-under 65 final round in the British Open where he finished tied fifth, the Victorian carded a six-under 64 at Firestone Country Club in the US to lead by one.

The 30-year-old carved up with eight birdies and just two bogeys to lead by one from former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, former US Open champion Justin Rose of England and American Ryan Moore.

In his home base at Virginia Beach the week before the British Open, Leishman's coach Dennis McDade mentioned he seemed a little jerky under pressure with his putter in recent months and the two went about rectifying the problem.

"Things would be fine on Thursdays and Fridays but come the weekend when the pressure was up, I was pushing my putter head further down into the ground before the stroke and then occasionally catching it during the stroke," Leishman revealed.

"It meant I was getting jerky and missing a lot of putts I might have made.

"But I have freed that up, I'm mindful of it and it has worked great at the Open and now here."

Ranked 90th on tour this year in the key stat strokes gained putting, Leishman was sixth in the field during the opening round in Akron.

Now the key is maintaining his play for the next three days as he tries to emulate compatriot Adam Scott, the last player to turn the first round lead to victory at Firestone (2011).

And after his epic meltdown at the Masters in April, where he led early in round two but imploded to miss the cut, Leishman believes he has the experience to stay in control.

"I've just got to not get too far ahead of myself," he said.

"It's definitely easy to do that. You start thinking about what might happen if you are to put four good rounds together.

"But on a tough course like this, it's going to be pretty easy not to get ahead of myself because there's so much trouble out there.

"I learned so much about myself and my game, and mentally, after the Masters.

"I was really disappointed and crushed and all that. But once it passed, I felt like I learned a lot and I was a lot better player mentally and could handle more than what I could before that."

World No 1 Adam Scott wasn't at his crisp best but managed a one-under 69 to tie 15th, joined by Steven Bowditch in his WGC debut.

Matt Jones, also on WGC debut, shot even par while John Senden battled to a 74. Injury-hampered Jason Day struggled to the same score to be near the back of the pack.

Tiger Woods, the defending and eight-time champion, is two-under and tied ninth. British Open champion and world No 2 Rory McIlroy shot one-under.

- AAP

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