NORTON — The eyes, the ears, the cameras were on noted friends Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
The hearts — those aware of what he’s endured off the course — lay with Marc Leishman.
In March of 2015, Leishman’s wife, Audrey, was taken to an urgent care clinic, ridden with flu-like symptoms that gave way to decreased blood pressure. Rushed to a hospital, Audrey was put into a coma after her organs began to cease functionality. Doctors put her chances of surviving at 5 percent.
Almost a week later, miraculously, Audrey awoke. Gradual improvements gave way to bigger ones, and in September of 2016 she was given a clean bill of health.
Suddenly, Marc’s back-nine duels didn’t feel so important.
Leishman emerged from the clubhouse firing in the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship Monday, carding a front-nine 30 and procuring a two-shot advantage as he made his turn. But birdies quickly ceded way to bogeys and while Leishman scuffled, Thomas surged, putting an end to the Aussie’s hopes of a third career PGA Tour victory, and first in the FedExCup Playoffs.
If there’s anything Leishman has learned in the past few years, it’s this: in the grand scheme of things, this beautiful, at times stupefying, game hardly matters.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” he said of his 1-under-par 70 and 13-under third-place finish. “But you know, with everything that’s going on in the world, I mean, there [are] certainly worse things going on. You have to put things into perspective. Obviously very disappointed. But we’re good to go.”
Leishman stands out whenever he finds himself atop a crammed leaderboard; the personable, gentle looking father amidst a sea of famed giants. Yet the 33-year-old calmly goes about his business, never too up, never too down, always to be counted upon for a thoughtful retrospective after his card has been signed.
Monday, it was a tale of two nines.
With a swath of challengers heartily giving chase on a rather forgiving opening stretch of holes, Leishman staved off the pack, namely playing partner and eventual champion Thomas. A birdie on No. 5 put Leishman alone on top, a lead he would extend four holes later when his ball rolled 9 feet into the cup on nine for 18 under.
“Everything,” he said on what was clicking during the opening nine. “I was hitting my irons really good, giving myself a lot of chances. Obviously, made a lot of putts. It was really good.”
So good, in fact, that from his ninth hole on Saturday through the first nine Monday, Leishman carded 17 birdies and not a single bogey.
But when the regression came, it came with a vengeance.
Trouble off the tee on No. 10 caused Leishman to incur a penalty stroke. Though he escaped with a bogey after a 14-foot-8-inch putt found bottom, the groove he had enjoyed over the past 48 hours was fading fast.
On No. 11, his putter finally failed him, a 7-foot par effort sliding by. The perplexing par-4 12th offered little reprieve, Leishman going from native area to bunker to fringe before two-putting for his third straight square.
Though he hung with Thomas for a few more holes, the damage was done.
“There’s two par 5s on the front and a drivable par 4 and a lot of holes where you’re hitting wedges,” Leishman said. “So if you are hitting it well, you can get a lot of chances. And then the back nine, you’ve got a couple — what feels like two or three — 500-yard par 4s. It’s just tough. It’s a hard nine.
“[I] got things going just the way I wanted to on the front and then [hit] a bad tee shot on 10. There were some tough holes out there but certainly not ten shots tougher than the front nine.”
A jump from 13th to seventh in the FedExCup standings did much to blunt the pain of Leishman’s shoddy closing stretch.
“I didn’t think I would get that high to be honest,” Leishman reflected. “Hopefully a good week at the BMW and who knows what can happen at the Tour Championship?”
Marc Leishman almost hits cameraman with chip shot on finishing hole
Marc Leishman nearly shanked his chip right into a NBC cameraman, but the cameraman had some moves. https://t.co/wQkUxNbcrw— Golf News Net (@GolfNewsNet) September 4, 2017