Leishman shows the way into the new year

Marc Leishman teeing off the 16th tee, during the first round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club on Thursday.
Marc Leishman teeing off the 16th tee, during the first round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club on Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • Marc Leishman ushered in the new year very much the same way that he ended the old, with a sizzling performance that earned him the first-round lead at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Thursday.

The Australian set the tone for his day with a five-foot birdie at the first hole en route to a six-under 67 at the Kapalua Plantation course on the island of Maui.

Leishman leads Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas and American Brian Harman by one stroke, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson among a trio two behind.

Despite his superb start, Leishman offered a reminder that behind the superstars lurk a bunch of players capable of winning any given week.

"Played well, drove ball pretty well with the exception of a couple of drives and the putter was really solid," Leishman told Golf Channel.

"Happy with eight birdies, good start to a nice tournament."

Leishman won the BMW Championship in September and finished runner-up to Justin Thomas in a play-off loss at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in South Korea in October.

World No. 2 Jordan Spieth recorded a 75 - his first-ever over-par score at Kapalua.

That left him ahead of only three players in the elite 34-man field comprising last season's tournament winners.

Spieth said he had made some "significant changes" in his putting set-up over the past month that he expects will take several rounds to feel comfortable.

Defending champion Thomas, whose victory last year marked the start of a five-win season that included his first Major title and the FedEx Cup play-off crown, carded a 71.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2018, with the headline 'Leishman shows the way into the new year'. Print Edition | Subscribe