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Marc Leishman just two behind Masters' lead

The unflappable Leishman contending in a major again (Photo: Getty Images)
All four of the Australians at this year’s Masters Tournament will play the weekend but it will be Victorian Marc Leishman on whom most Australian eyes will be focused in Saturday’s 3rd round.

Leishman at 7 under, after his round of 67, is alone in 2nd position and will play in tomorrow’s third round with the leader, Patrick Reed.

Cameron Smith is at 1 under and although eight shots from the lead he is well enough placed in 14th position in just his second appearance at Augusta National.

Jason Day has finished at 2 over and Adam Scott at 4 over and although Leishman has been the star to date all four have a chance at least to be at least the leading Australian by Sunday evening.  

Leishman sits just two off the hectic pace being set by Reed whose round of 66 today was the best on day two ahead of the rounds of the 67 by Leishman and Justin Thomas but the unflappable 34 year old is beautifully poised ahead of the final 36 holes.

Leishman made the perfect start to his day when he birdied his opening three holes, the first of those coming with a curling right to left 18-footer before putts from 7 feet at the 2nd and 3 feet at the 3rd had him in the lead.

A superb par save at the 7th hole after finding the trees from the tee kept the momentum going but it took until the 13th hole before he was able to birdie again.

He dropped a shot at the 14th but the shot of the day from him and perhaps the field overall was Leishman’s 5 iron second shot from 226 yards at the 15th to 5 feet, the resultant eagle moving him just one behind Reed at that point.

Three pars to finish and Leishman was in about 30 minutes ahead of Reed and although the American briefly extended his lead to three when he birdied the 15th, a bogey after three putting the 16th would narrow the margin.  

“Yeah, very happy,” said Leishman.  “It was a tough day out there and happy to get off to the start I did and then not make too many mistakes, which is very important on a day like today."

When asked why he took such a chance on the 15th when he was so well positioned his response was immediate. “It's a Major, you're going to have to take some chances at some point during the week if you want to win and that was a time where I thought I had to take a chance. 

“And like I said, I've been hitting that shot well on the range and I thought it was a prime opportunity to give it a test there at the course and it came off.”

When asked what he might have learned from his experience of being in contention in 2013 Leishman responded. “Well I obviously have to play a little better than I did that day, but I learned that I don't have to play perfect golf, just got to take your chances when you get them. 

“That day I didn't really take my chances. I had opportunities, but wasn't able to do it, so hopefully this week is the week.“

Smith began with a bogey at the 1st but birdies at 2 and 3 got things moving in the right direction and despite bogeys at the 5th and 7th a 25 footer down the hill at the 6th had him at 1 under for the day. He was unable to improve on that but at 1 under and in a share of 15th he can be pleased with his work on the opening two days.

“I'm trying not to think about it too much,” said Smith when asked how he felt about being in contention at the Masters.  “Yeah, just keep doing what I'm doing heading into the weekend. Just need to hit a few more balls this afternoon, like I said, and get the driver figured out and then I think I'll be good to go.

“I thought I made a little bit of progress with the putting and then it was just so tough when we were coming in that back nine, it's getting breezy, so, yeah, needed to scramble well.”

Jason Day produced four birdies and three bogeys for his round of 71 to move into a share of 28th. A bogey at the par 5 15th came at just the wrong time for Day who was working his way back into the tournament at that point. Playing the reachable par five he would have been considering getting back to even par for the tournament but things went the other way.

At 2 over however he is still not out of it and although some dire weather is forecast it is not beyond the realms of possibility for him to produce something special tomorrow and move to the edge of contention. He will however need that special round and some help from those ahead.

Adam Scott improved two shots on his opening round of 75, a birdie at the last insurance for playing the weekend although he would eventually make it by two.






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