Australian Marc Leishman played mostly social golf during his extended off-season. Even though he’s back to business, he’s maintained his relaxed approach — and it paid off on Friday at LIV Golf Tucson.
Team Ripper’s Leishman opened with a six-under 65 at The Gallery South Course to grab a one-shot lead over Abraham Ancer of the Fireballs, Smash’s Matthew Wolff and Stinger captain Louis Oosthuizen. 4 Aces’ Peter Uihlein and Torque teammates Joaquin Niemann and David Puig are tied for fifth, two shots behind.
“I’m enjoying my golf at the moment … Playing with no consequences over the off-season kind of gave me a little bit of confidence with some of the shots I hit and how they turned out,” said the 39-year-old Leishman, who is seeking his 14th career pro victory.
In the team competition, Torque lead at 10-under thanks to counting rounds by Niemann (67), Puig (67) and Sebastian Munoz (69). The Spanish-speaking team is one shot ahead of three teams — Smash, Fireballs and Iron Heads .
Torque come off their first-ever podium finish, a third-place at LIV Golf Mayakoba. The next step for captain Niemann and his crew is a first-place celebration.
“I’m pretty excited to see what’s going to happen on the weekend,” Niemann said of Torque, the youngest of the 12 LIV Golf League teams.
The youngest player is the 21-year-old Puig, who played collegiately at Arizona State in Tempe before turning pro last year to become a LIV Golf member. Puig recently played a practice round with Arizona State legend Phil Mickelson and carded 11 birdies. He produced seven on Friday, tying for the most in the field.
“It’s nice to see David playing great,” Niemann said. “Pretty cool to see him scoring well. The practice rounds, you could tell he was feeling like home.”
As for the affable Leishman, he and his Ripper teammates — captained by reigning Open Champion Cameron Smith — are building the type of camaraderie they hope will manifest itself into team trophies. Next month, LIV Golf travels to Australia for the first time, with huge crowds expected for LIV Golf Adelaide.
“It’ll be nice to be able to play in front of home crowds in Adelaide, which is a really cool city,” Leishman said. “They love their sport. Certainly excited to get down there and just showcase what we’ve got with LIV.”
The immediate focus, of course, will be on the final two rounds of LIV Golf Tucson. Saturday’s tickets have been sold out. Leishman and the players chasing after him hope to feed off their energy.
“I actually holed a nice putt in 16 in front of the Birdie Shack,” Leishman said. “It was nice to make a birdie in front of there and get a nice cheer.”