When Marc Leishman putted out for par (and an eventual victory) on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his two young sons ran onto the green to hug him as his wife, Aubrey, pregnant with the couple’s third child, a girl, watched from the side of the green. About two years ago, Aubrey contracted toxic shock syndrome and nearly died; Marc was fully ready to walk away from the game to raise his boys. But she recovered, and he is playing well, collecting his second PGA Tour victory. Here is a Golfweek column from the the third round of the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews, which was pushed to a Monday finish. Leishman eventually would lose in a three-way playoff, with Zach Johnson winning:
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The winds were but gentle zephyrs, and the rains, heavy and cold in the preceding days, were nothing but a light and occasional sprinkle. When the Scottish summer forecast calls for only “the odd spot of rain,” the green light gets lit, and basically, the Old Course was there for the taking on Sunday. Today’s modern, fit power players didn’t miss the opening, peppering the place with eagles and birdies.
Only one, though, danced with that major number that has been so elusive at major championships. Twenty-six players own 63s at majors, but no player has broken the barrier to shoot 62. So when caddie Matt Kelly looked over to Aussie Marc Leishman as the two walked down the 16th fairway and started his sentence with “Two more birdies,” Leishman didn’t need him to finish it. Eight under through 15 holes, he was thinking the exact same thing.
“It was probably a good thing,” Leishman said, “because 15, 16, 17, they’re not easy holes, especially where the pin is on 16 and 17 today. Thinking about making birdies instead of thinking about trying to hold on and make pars like you normally on those holes was a pretty good mindset, I think.”
Leishman would give himself two good looks on the way home, but neither would fall, and he’d settle for an 8-under 64. He hit an approach inside 10 feet at the par-4 16th and caught the edge of the cup with his putt, then lipped out from 15 feet for birdie at the famed Road Hole. At 18, with the hole located just over a front ridge, he tried bumping a pitch up the embankment to get it close. But the ball pitched softer than he thought it would, and it eventually trickled downward into the 18th’s famed Valley of Sin. It was all he could do to make par from there.
Sure, he was disappointed that he hadn’t gone lower, even if that’s hard to do after shooting 64 at a major championship on the Old Course, but he also knew that his score, which jettisoned him from 1 under to 9 under through 54 holes, got him back into the tournament into what could be a wild Monday finish.
And anyway, 62 or not, there are bigger things in life than winning tournaments and setting records. Three months ago, Leishman’s perfectly healthy wife, Aubrey, nearly lost her life in a battle with toxic shock syndrome. She was put into a reduced coma, and Leishman faced the grim reality that he and the couple’s two little boys, ages 3 and 1, might lose her.
“It’s changed my whole perspective on life,” said Leishman, 31, who placed fifth when the British Open was played at Hoylake a year ago. “I feel like I’ve always had a pretty good outlook on life, but now just it takes a lot more to worry me. I don’t get annoyed about little things that I can’t really help. When you hit a bad shot there’s no real point getting frustrated about it because you tried to hit a good shot, you didn’t, move on. That frustration doesn’t help.
“And I feel like even if I do have a bad day, I can still go home and hopefully give her a hug and cuddle my boys. There for a while it didn’t look like I was going to be able to do that. I think in that way, it’s really helped me. . . . I think it’s just changed me as a person, for the better.”
Aubrey Leishman is home in Virginia Beach, Va., this week, and doing well. She looks like she did before she got sick, but she has little energy and stamina. Most days, she is tired by mid-day and has to take it pretty easy the rest of the day. Leishman said his wife was fit and strong, but her muscles were working so hard during her induced coma that they wasted away. She went from lifting weights in the gym on a daily basis to not being able to lift her cell phone off a table.
Leishman skipped the Masters and didn’t touch a golf club for more than a month. Had the worse happened, he was fully ready to walk away from the game, stay at home, and raise his two boys (“Traveling with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, that wasn’t going to happen,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that to the boys.”) He’s had friends of his who have lost spouses tragically young, and watched as their worlds tipped upside-down. But as the pages turn, it appears his story might have a happy ending.
“She’s getting stronger,” he said, “and it’s going to take time. Might take a year, might take two years, who knows, but she’s here to tell the story.”
When handicapping the 15 Aussies in this week’s field earlier in the week, former Open champion Ian Baker-Finch said you tend to look at the higher-ranked players such as Adam Scott and Jason Day, but there’s several more with the tools to win this championship.
“I think that they’re all prepared,” he said. “I won one. One of those can win one, too.”
Claret Jug or not, Leishman knows he’s in a good place, much better than where he knows he could be. So he doesn’t expect to feel a great deal of pressure on the Old Course Monday.
“I know that obviously I want to win,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that. But if I don’t, I’ll be all right. … I’m doing what I love, and I’ve still got my family, so that’s important, yeah.”