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Golfer Leishman is having a very good year
Golfer Leishman is having a very good year

Marc Leishman has shown he can handle tough lies in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs.

As a rookie in 2009, the Australian who resides in Virginia Beach needed to finish no worse than second in the BMW Championship to advance to the Tour Championship. That's the 30-man final event that decides the FedEx Cup's $10 million winner.

Leishman tied for second.

This week, what Leishman considers "a better predicament" faces him as he enters the BMW Championship starting today outside Chicago.

"I've got to finish in the top five," he said with a smile. "So I've got a couple extra spots to play with."

There's been plenty in 2013 to lift Leishman's mood.

His wife, Audrey, a Salem High grad, gave birth to the couple's second son, Oliver, three weeks ago. He follows 19-month-old Harvey into the family nursery.

Leishman, 29, recorded his first top-10 in a major. In April at the Masters, he tied for fourth with Tiger Woods. He finished eighth at the prestigious Players Championship, then 12th at the year's final major, the PGA Championship.

He's 1 of 70 players to survive the first two FedEx playoff events and reach the BMW field.

And last week, Leishman achieved what he called a career goal by being named 1 of 2 captain's picks for the International team that will challenge the United States in next month's Presidents Cup.

South African Brendon de Jonge, who played at Virginia Tech, was the other player selected by Nick Price to the 12-man team.

The Presidents Cup has been around since 1994, but is dwarfed for attention by another biennial exhibition, the venerable Europe vs. USA Ryder Cup. Nonetheless, Leishman said honors come no higher for Australian golfers, who have no other outlet for team play.

"It means the same as it does for an American to be on the Ryder Cup," he said. "Growing up as an amateur, I played a lot of team stuff - Australian teams, state or club teams. I loved it. And I haven't done that since I've been a pro."

Leishman will join Aussies Adam Scott and Jason Day at Muirfield Village - site of the Memorial Tournament that Jack Nicklaus hosts each spring in Dublin, Ohio - for the four-day event that starts Oct. 3. For the record, Leishman has a middling history at Muirfield; he's broken par just four times in 18 pro rounds. Like the Ryder Cup, though, Presidents Cup singles matches are only played Sunday, the final day. The first three days are about partners playing in concert and winning as a team.

The U.S. has won the event 7 of 9 times, with a tie in 2003. Leishman was on site for the only International victory - as a 15-year-old high school kid watching from the gallery in Australia.

He said he caught the final day of the Internationals' nine-point drubbing of Team USA at Royal Melbourne in 1998.

"The guys who have played on a few of the teams are sick of losing," said Leishman, whose friend Scott will play for the sixth time, and whose idol, Ernie Els, is back for an eighth.

First on the tee, however, is Leishman's long-shot drive to win the FedEx Cup.

It's unlikely because Leishman is 58th in points and has little wiggle room this week.

Still, if he can somehow bag his BMW top 5, on a course he's never played, points that have been building up since the start of the playoffs will reset to more tightly pack the field for the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

In theory, that gives all 30 finalists a chance to claim the cup. But even if Leishman makes that final field and finishes last, as he did in '09, he said he'd still consider this year his finest.

"I haven't won" in 2013, said Leishman, whose lone victory is the Travelers Championship last year, "but I've been more consistent and played better in the tournaments that meant more, if that makes sense."

Perfect sense. Leishman, remember, shared the Masters lead with Sergio Garcia after the first day. Their 66s were the best rounds of the tournament, which was Leishman's second trip to Augusta.

And on Sunday's back nine, he was only a few shots behind Scott, the eventual winner, when he dumped his approach to the par-5 15th into the pond.

"I was sort of putting all my eggs in one basket and went for it," said Leishman, who's ranked 59th in the world and has won nearly $1.5 million this year. "I probably could have hit a club more... but I really wanted to get it close to the hole to make eagle.

"As much as I didn't want to hit it into the water, I'm glad that I went down swinging. You don't get too many chances to win the Masters."

Nor, soon, the opportunity to take down his adopted country-mates in team play.

"I live in America, and I love America, but you know, when I get out there, I'm gonna want to beat the Americans," Leishman said, "because I'm playing for the Internationals. And I want to walk away victorious."

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