Leishman, one of four Australians in the field, trails first round leader Louis Oosthuizen by five after signing for a 2-under 69 marred by a dropped shot at the 17th hole.
The World Number 15 missed a slippery four-foot putt at the par-3 after missing the green but chipping close.
The dropped shot moved him from 3-under and a share of eighth to 2-under and T13 though the tricky nature of the course means anything under par on day one was well earned.
Almost half the 64 man field were in red numbers Thursday, Leishman and Adam Bland the two Australians to achieve the feat.
Brett Rumford and Wade Ormsby found the going somewhat more difficult and are at the tail of the field after rounds of 78 and 79 respectively.
The first of the year’s World Golf Championships is living up to its billing with six nations represented in the top 12 players.
South Africa’s Oosthuizen was blemish free in his 64 to be one ahead of three players - Chris Paisley of England, Xander Schauffele of the US and impressive Indian Shubankhar Sharma.
Both Sharma and Paisley are winners in Europe already this year, Paisley claiming a maiden title at the South African Open while Sharma has stunned the golf world with victories at both the Joburg Open in December and the Maybank Championship in Malaysia last month.
World Super 6 Perth winner Kiradech Aphibarnrat shares sixth place alongside Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain while countryman Jon Rahm is alone in 7th place at 4-under.
Leishman’s day got off to an ideal start with birdies at his first two holes and he went to the turn 2-under and likely expecting to pick up more shots on the inward half.
However he stumbled at the 10th and 17th to offset gains at 11 and 15 to finish even for the nine and likely pleased enough with his play.
Defending champion and World Number One Dustin Johnson is on the same mark as Leishman after a roller coaster round which featured a double bogey and two bogeys against six birdies.
Bubba Watson, too, had his share of ups and downs after reaching 7-under through 11 holes with some startling golf before giving back five shots in the space of six holes to also be 2-under and T13.
Last week’s Honda Classic winner, Justin Thomas, never found his rhythm in the opening round and signed for a 1-over 72to be T39.
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