HEADING into this week at Oakmont Country Club, Australian Marc Leishman had only played a US Open Sunday once before. But he proved to himself this week he has built a game suited to the major.
The last time the Victorian made the cut at a US Open Championship was in 2011 at Congressional Country Club when a second round 2-under 69 helped him to the weekend.
Leishman eventually tied for 51st, but that was the shining light in his four appearances at the game's second oldest major. Until this year.
In 2010 at Pebble Beach, 2013 at Merion and last year at Chambers Bay, Leishman missed the cut after shooting over par rounds.
In fact, until his second round 69 at Oakmont on Saturday, Leishman's only under-par score in 11 US Open rounds was his Friday 69 at Congressional.
This week, despite a third round 7-over 77, Leishman made his second US Open cut and ended the tournament 6-over after a Sunday 1-under 69.
"All up, I’m pretty happy. I haven’t done very well at all in the US Opens in the past," Leishman said outside Oakmont's clubhouse on Sunday afternoon.
On Saturday evening, Leishman started the third round even-par and was paired with major winners Adam Scott and Zach Johnson.
However, a birdie-free 7-over 77 followed in a round where he needed to finish his final hole on Sunday morning after play on Saturday was called because of darkness.
"I played terrible. I deserved to shoot 77. I just didn’t play great," Leishman said.
"Hit it in the wrong spots a few times and you know you can't do it around here. You play this place enough you’re gonna have a few scores like that.
"But coming into the week my expectations were higher than they have been in the past but they still weren’t through the roof I wouldn’t say.
"It was nice to play well those first two days, play well today, know that I can shoot a score in a US Open, which I haven't done ever really."
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After teeing off in the 11th group of the day and signing his 1-under card, Leishman was the first player on Sunday to leave the scorer's hut with an under-par round.
“I played well. It’s nice to know that I’m not going to go backwards being the clubhouse leader," Leishman joked as the majority of the field and leaders were still on course.
"But the course is gettable if you’re hitting good shots, like all week really. If you’re not hitting good shots it’s brutal."
Leishman's final round got off to a brilliant start, with birdies on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd holes.
His efforts on the par-4 1st and 3rd holes were particularly impressive given those holes were bleeding bogeys all day.
“I’ve been hitting iron off the first and second all week and I hit driver up both of them today," Leishman said.
"I looked at it kind of like a free day after playing so bad yesterday. Go out there and have some fun and hopefully make some birdies and if not, it’s Father’s Day I’ll go home and see my boys.
"It was nice to be hitting driver and hitting good shots, giving myself good birdie opportunities."
After the excellent opening three holes, Leishman carded two pars before his score dropped back with bogeys on the par-3 6th hole and par-4 7th hole, which was playing as the third-hardest hole on Sunday with the pin right at the back of the green.
Leishman then went birdie, bogey to start the front nine before back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th holes.
On the par-3 16th, Leishman cancelled out his mini-revival with a messy double bogey.
He hooked his tee shot beyond the ropes as supporters rushed to get out of the way and could only find the bunker between him and the green with his second.
Heading to the 17th after writing down a five, Leishman looked to rack-up another big number when he found the left bunker on the driveable 17th.
But a tremendous up-and-down sealed a birdie, his last of the week as he found another greenside bunker at 18 but couldn't get up and down to end his week with a bogey.
However, making his second US Open cut and climbing up the leaderboard on Sunday has given Leishman the confidence to play well in future US Open appearances.
"I don’t think the courses are going to get any harder than [Oakmont]," Leishman said.
"Obviously it played a little easier than it normally does, but next year hopefully I’ll take the good stuff away from this and keep the big numbers out of it which I couldn’t do yesterday.”
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