Back to the future for Leishman

Marc Leishman, Adam Scott
Leishman and Scott high-five on the 72nd hole at Augusta, 2013. Image: Getty

 In April, 2013, Marc Leishman watched Adam Scott complete what must be the most famous golfing feat by any Australian, winning the Masters at Augusta National, from the closest possible range.

The Victorian was in the final group with Scott, and had lost his chance to become the first Aussie to don the green jacket, but it did not stop him from celebrating with Scott when the Queenslander's birdie putt rolled in on the 18th green. The photograph that came from the moment -- Scott exultant, screaming 'Come on, Aussie', Leishman fist-pumping in the background -- is iconic to Australian sport already.

Four years on the good golfing mates are conferring again, this time to represent Australia in the World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath later this month, and they are excited. Close friends off the course, they had their first informal briefing face-to-face in Malaysia recently.

Leishman, the world No. 49, was a late inclusion when Jason Day withdrew because of his back injury, a hand-picked selection by Scott himself. The format of the World Cup is that the highest-ranked player from a particular country chooses his partner and invites him to play in the 28-nation, 56-man field, and in this case, Leishman got a phone call that he was happy to take.

"It was probably a few days before he announced it, that he called me,'' the man from Warrnambool told the media today. "So obviously that was exciting to get that call, and something I've always wanted to do is represent Australia.  I was really excited ...  I said to my wife, Audrey, it's something I've always wanted to do, and to do it anywhere in the world would be amazing; but to do it on one of my favorite courses in virtually my hometown is going to be a great week, and hopefully we can do Australia proud.''

What is often forgotten is that Leishman began that final day at Augusta in 2013 with a chance to win. The roar when Scott's putt dropped on 18 was "the loudest I've ever heard'', and to add to the atmosphere, Scott screamed in his countryman's face as they high-fived.

"I mean, we both had our goal that day of slipping on the green jacket,'' Leishman, who ended up tied-fourth, said. "Yes, once my chances had sunk in, I really wanted to do everything I could to help Scotty, and it kind much felt a bit like I team there towards the end, trying to keep his mind off things, and not coach him but just try and be as helpful as I could.

"But that was great, and then obviously to see that putt drop, I mean, I did exactly what probably every other person in Australia was doing at the same time. It's just I happened to be on the green with a four-footer left myself. That was awesome, and it's going to be great to spend four days with Scotty on the course. We've become really good friends over the last few years, and you know, I was pumped to get the call that I was going to be partner after Jason had the bad back.''

Leishman is playing in Mexico next week and had to tweak his schedule once he was selected for the World Cup, dropping his defence of the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa and the Emirates Australian Open, but he now will play the World Cup and the Australian PGA Championship. He also intends spending Christmas in Australia with his family.

He has not played at Kingston Heath since the 2009 Australian Masters, when crowds flocked to the course for the return of Tiger Woods to Australia, but has vivid memories of the course dating to the old Port Phillip amateur tournament. The format for the World Cup -- with four-ball and foursomes play -- fits with him.

"We had dinner a couple of times in Malaysia, last week, actually, and we had a bit of a chat about it,'' he said. "We're definitely thinking about it early on. It's a very important event for both of us. We both want to play well and represent Australia well, and yeah, we've been having a bit of a chat about how the course might be set up, and strategy and all that, which tees we might be hitting off.  We are certainly thinking about it already.''
 

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