Coronavirus: Leishman itching for PGA Tour return after fast start prior to COVID-19 crisis

By Sports Desk April 23, 2020

Marc Leishman is raring to go for the PGA Tour's return, though the Australian star admits playing without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic will be "very weird".

COVID-19 has brought sport to a standstill globally, with the PGA Tour forced to either postpone or call off a number of events since mid-March in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The PGA Tour is planning for tournaments to resume behind closed doors in the second week of June.

Leishman was in fine form before golf was suspended, with the world number 15 claiming his fifth Tour title via January's Farmers Insurance Open. He also earned top-three finishes at the Safeway Open (third) and Arnold Palmer Invitational (second) to be seventh in the FedEx Cup standings.

"I would've loved to have kept playing, with the way I was playing. I was playing great golf and enjoying it," Leishman, who was part of the International team which almost clinched an historic Presidents Cup win over the United States in Melbourne in December, told Stats Perform. "I haven't had an offseason for about 12 years, so I'm looking at that as a positive.

"Getting off to a really fast start, it's nice that when and if we do come back, I won't have to really push hard to get back to the top of the list – I'm already there, in the that top 10. The pressure will be off.

"Obviously I'd prefer it not to be happening but definitely looking at it as a positive, rather than dwell on the bad stuff because there's a lot of bad stuff at the moment."

Playing in front of an empty gallery is unprecedented, especially for superstars like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, and Leishman believes the pair could struggle without fans in attendance.

"It will be very weird," Leishman said. "It will be weirder for some than others, I'll be about in the middle somewhere. The guys like Tiger, Rory, Brooks [Koepka] etc that play in front of huge crowds every time they're out on Tour, it's going to be quite difficult for them.

"Then me, I'm about 70-30 in front of big crowds and very small crowds, so it will be all about trying to manage energy and get the focus up without having fans there to help."

While the Masters has been pushed back to November, the Open Championship was cancelled for 2020 – a particular blow for Leishman, whose best major performance was tied for second at the iconic event in 2015.

Asked if he had earmarked The Open as his best chance for a major breakthrough this year, Leishman – a two-time top-10 Masters performer – said: "Probably that. All the majors this year, well, I wouldn't say the U.S. Open – that would've been last on the list because the course. Not really up my alley.

"Harding Park, San Francisco [US PGA Championship], the Masters, then The Open. Those three events I would say. The Open is such a big event and an event that I love. I really enjoy playing that type of golf. That would've been my best chance, but I'll have to wait until next year now."

In the meantime, Leishman is enjoying a prolonged period at home with his family in Virginia Beach, where the 36-year-old has established his own putting green thanks to a burning-off method in the United States.

"It's different. I'm not used to being home this long, so that's very different. The golf courses are still open here. I think I've played three times in the last five weeks. So not much at all. Trying to take the positives out of it. Enjoying the offseason and the time at home with family.

"I'd be able to go [to the course] every day if I wanted to, but I don't think it's the smartest thing to do. It's okay if you go there and no one comes near you, but a lot of the time people want photos and I find it hard to say no. That's hard for me. I've been trying to stay away and chill at home."

"Obviously, I wouldn't do it in Australia because it could get out of control," Leishman said with a smile when asked about burning his grass. "But here it's a bit different. It goes completely dormant in the winter, so if I was to bag it up and take it away, it would probably be about 100 big bags of grass. So it saves my back a lot. It's controlled, it can't go anywhere. It's not like it's dry, it's a real slow burn. It's pretty amusing actually."

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