RISING golfing star Marc Leishman is a hot favourite to make Australian golf history this year by being named the country’s first US PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
The 25 year old Australian also realised a boyhood dream this week by qualifying for the US Masters next year.
His tie for second placing in the $8.69 million BMW Championship in Chicago on Sunday catapulted him into qualifying for the top-30 US PGA Tour Championship at No. 16 in the FedExCup standings.
His place in the 30 man Tour Championship means he is now automatically exempt for next year’s US Masters, US Open at Pebble Beach and British Open at St Andrews.
”It’s hard to wipe the smile off my face at the minute,” Leishman said after finishing second to his final day playing partner Tiger Woods on Sunday. ”The Masters, [it] has always been a dream to play that. We used to set the alarm at 4.30 in the morning to watch it when I was back home as a kid (in Warrnambool). If I’m home, I still do.”
Leishman’s tie with Jim Furyk was his best finish of his US Tour career. He has made 17 weekend cuts in 25 events this year with three top-10 finishes and eight top-25 finishes, earning about $2 million.
He would be the first Australian to be named US PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in its 19 year history.
Leishman was originally due to play in the second last group on Sunday but due to heavy fog, play was delayed 90 minutes and the draw re-shaped with a two-tee start.
”I got a text message about 7.30 in the morning saying we had a group change and I was now with Tiger, so it worked out pretty well [that I] didn’t have to sleep on that,” Leishman said. ”I said to Matty [Kelly, his caddie and a mate from Warrnambool GC] walking down the first, ‘This is what we play golf for – in the last group on Sunday, playing with Tiger.’
”Just to play with him is awesome. He’s a great bloke to play with, really friendly and up for a chat. For my first time playing in a group with Tiger, I was really happy with how it went. And to go bogey-free as well was even better. He was really happy for me getting in the Tour Championship,” Leishman said.
Leishman has brought a home at Virginia Beach, near Washington DC, and is now settled in the US. Just a couple of weeks ago became engaged to a local Virginia Beach girl, Audrey Hills.
They plan to marry early next year but the Australian has now specified the only dates definitely not available for the wedding will be US Masters week.