Marc Leishman off to Texas flyer: Cards first round 65 in Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open

The Aussie established a good base with which to maintain his fine record in the Lone Star State.

At first glance Marc Leishman is a classically laid back Australian character.

Back in 2013 he famously played the final round of the Masters alongside Adam Scott and was seen punching the air as his fellow Aussie birdied the 72nd hole on his way to later slipping his arms inside a Green Jacket.

That sense of Aussie mateship has been backed up in the years since, as he's claimed victories in the wake of compatriots' success, proudly represented the International team in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, and won this year's Zurich Classic of New Orleans alongside his best friend and fellow countryman Cameron Smith.

Throw in a deep love of the family life, alongside a genial manner, and you've got a golfer who many might overlook as a competitor.

And, while it might be true that he is no Tiger Woods or Nick Faldo in terms of drive and ambition, he does have his targets and last season he didn't achieve them - principally, he failed to make the TOUR Championship at East Lake.

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That omission on his schedule hurt and yet it might also have prompted an increase in hunger.

His immediate response was to start the 2021/22 season with back-to-back top five finishes and, after opening the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open with a 5-under-par 65 to claim an early share of the first round lead on a disrupted Thursday at Memorial Park GC, he was keen to accentuate the positives.

"It was obviously pretty disappointing not to get to East Lake," he said. "But I guess the time off might have helped me, it might make this next season a really good one. I hope that's the case.

"Probably for about six months I feel like I've been playing okay, just not getting anything out of it.

"So I worked on my wedge game, everything inside 150. And I've started making putts, really that's the difference.

"It can be a crazy game. It can get you down because you can play really well and not have a good score, then play mediocre golf and have a really good score.

"You have to not let that get to you so I think a fresh season, a new start was pretty good for me. Got me to knuckle down and just really focus on playing some good golf."

His stats hint at his strategy for the week: he hit just 6-of-13 fairways, but landed 14-of-18 greens in regulation and gained significant strokes on the morning wave with both those accurate approaches and the putts which followed (he was ranking top 10 for both midway through the field's first circuit).

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"There's not a whole lot of strategy off the tee here, it's pretty much driver on every hole," he explained.

"That flips going into the greens. There's a lot of strategy involved with where you want to hit it. There's places you just cannot hit it and the greens are perfect so you can make putts.

"I just want to keep doing what I've been doing. Only one bogey today and if I could only have one bogey in each round, I'd be pretty happy with that."

When the 38-year-old signed his card he was tied for the lead alongside Russell Henley and the in-form Talor Gooch, one clear of Jason Dufner, after inclement weather had delayed the start of the round, preventing the field from completing the scheduled action.

Leishman in Texas

He won his first start in the Lone Star State by a whopping 11 strokes on the 2008 Korn Ferry Tour and, while he has never backed that up with further success on the main tour, he has continued to rack up the good finishes.

He's twice made the knockout stages of the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin CC, has a top five at LaCantera, multiple top 30s at each of Las Colinas, Colonial and Craig Ranch, and was second at Trinity Forest.

In all, he's made 34 starts, missed just six cuts, recorded 13 top 20s, nine of them top 10s, fives top fives, with that win to kick it all off.

Why does he like playing in Texas? Asked that question a few years ago he said: "It's not very often you play in Australia when it's not windy like in Texas. It's something I enjoy doing, playing in tough conditions. I grew up in Warrnambool, which is known as 'Windy Warrnambool.' It's always windy. It's normally always blowing really hard."

He also has a notably fine record when making a bold start in the state.

He's six times been in the top five after 18 holes and every time he finished tied seventh or better, five times ending that week in the top five.

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Leishman on his career

"Six-time tour winner, so I'm happy. But there's still some missing parts in there. I'd love to win a Major and hopefully I can just keep playing the way I'm playing and have the luck of the draw or the rub of the green on those big weeks, because you can set yourself for the Majors but doesn't mean you're going to play well in them. I would like to do that. I feel like I've had a good career. I'm hoping I've still got plenty of years left in me."

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