Leishman answers Rickie’s record challenge with 68

(Bernie McGuire, Erin Hills:) Marc Leishman felt the pressure on his shoulders from the moment he crawled out of bed and tuned into TV coverage of the opening round of the US Open at Erin Hills.

After three hard days of practice, Leishman enjoyed a good lie-in given he was not due to tee off till 1.14pm local time.

Marc Leishman Marc Leishman (Credit: USGA)

And by the time the 33-year-old had done all the things you do when you get out of bed American Rickie Fowler was well on the way to recording his best ever score in a US Open and in the process matching the lowest first round to par in a US Open set 37-years ago by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf when they shot seven under 63s in 1980 at Baltursol in New Jersey.

“Waking up and seeing Rickie, I think he was 6-under after 10 or 11, something like that I knew something was up,” said Leishman.

Leishman, who is competing in his sixth US Open, superbly answered the challenge birdieing two of his first three holes starting from the 10th.

After dropping a shot at the 17th or his eight, the proud Warrnambool-born golfer charged back with birdies at his 13th and 14th holes before ending on a high note in birdieing the very tricky downhill par ninth that was his 18th.

“The course was obviously pretty soft after the rain we’ve had,” he said.

“But the course is still tough if you don’t play well. I spent time in the fescue today. Hopefully I can drive it a little better. But definitely not US Open-like.”

“It was nice to have this afternoon out of the way as things started to speed up a little bit and fairways started to run out a bit. Greens sped up, a lot quicker today than they were in the beginning of the week.”

“So, that made a difference. But it would be nice to get out there on some fresh greens in the morning. Hopefully the wind will be down.”

Leishman’s effort is easily his lowest starting round in a US Open and three shots fewer than a prior day one low of 71 a year ago.

His lowest score in his previous 12 rounds of a US Open is also a 69 he shot on day two of the 2011 and also day two a year ago.

And the key to Leishman’s Erin Hills first day he said was his short game and putting.

“My short game and putting were really good,” he confirmed.

“I had a lot of very makeable birdie chances and my iron play was good. I didn’t drive it great but when I did miss it I was in not that bad a spot. So probably 7 and 8 was disappointing. But probably the iron play.”

“I’m feeling good. There’s a lot of golf to play. But the US Open hasn’t always been my best golf moment. But as far as US Open courses go, I feel like this one suits me the best.”

“You need a little imagination, hitting it in the right spots. I really enjoy this golf more than just having to hack out.”

“It’s more what I grew up on in Australia. And I tend to play better on this type of golf course, so you enjoy what you play well on.”