Fan-free Masters a challenge for Leishman

Ben Everill
·3-min read

Golf without crowds has been a killer for Marc Leishman.

In the midst of a post-COVID-19 break slump, Leishman has revealed a key factor has been his inability to adjust to the current playing conditions without spectators, something he is desperately hoping to fix at the Masters this week.

For the first time ever, the Masters will not only be played in November but will also be without the large throng of patrons that have provided iconic roars in past editions.

The pandemic means silence will fill the air this year. And that's not good news for Leishman despite two previous top-10s at Augusta.

Before the pandemic, Leishman won at Torrey Pines and was runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But his game has deserted him since the hiatus.

Before the break, Leishman was a combined 29 under par for the season in 33 rounds.

Since the break, he's 58 over from 38 rounds. His best finish was a 29th in a 30-man field. Now we know why.

For years Leishman has used the large crowds who flock to PGA Tour tournaments as his secret weapon, feeding off their energy.

Initially he'd create and use a chip on his shoulder when fans had to ask who he was or mistook him for someone else, be it Ireland's Shane Lowry or American Jason Kokrak.

But as his own form lifted, so too did his profile.

Now a four-time PGA TOUR winner, Leishman rides the cheers and continues to use any perceived underdog status to his benefit. Without the fans, he's been flat.

"The energy levels were not there. I still wanted to play well and there's always a lot to play for but it's just with no crowds it's very different," Leishman told AAP.

"I tend to feed off the crowds a lot even though it might not look like it. I play better when it's high energy and pressure and there's been no energy, no pressure, no nothing."

Leishman is not trying to make excuses. He's owning the issue and trying to rectify it.

A recent visit from coach Dennis McDade has also tidied up a set-up problem that was tensing up his swing at certain moments.

"I have put myself in this position by playing poorly and getting in contention creates pressure and energy and I've done none of that," Leishman said.

"I haven't really hit a shot that's mattered since March in the context of winning or losing a tournament. Golf hasn't been very fun for me the way I've been hitting it lately.

"But I'm excited to be back here to challenge myself. Just playing Augusta National gets your energy up so hopefully this can be a big turning point for me.

"Guys have won after missing cuts or playing poorly for months on end so hopefully I can be another one to add to that list."