AKRON, Ohio – Australian Marc Leishman strives to take a basic approach every time he tees up for a golf tournament.
Leishman twice referenced the need to “keep doing the simple things well” when he met with the media Thursday following his first round score of 6-under-par 64 to lead the field of 76 golfers in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.
Leishman started on No. 10 with a birdie on a sunny and warm day on the South Course. He added birdies on 13, 16, 17, 2, 4, 6 and 8, and bogeys on 18 and 7 in relative anonymity as he and American Chris Kirk played in front of small crowds of people compared to other golfers.
“To start with, I drove the ball well,” Leishman said. “It makes this course a lot easier when you’re on the fairway. It’s pretty tough when you’re playing from the rough.
“Then I hit my irons really well and was rolling the ball awesome. So, it’s a pretty good combination for a tough golf course like this.”
American Ryan Moore, South African Charl Schwartzel and England’s Justin Rose are tied for second with 65s.
A group of four golfers – Americans Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Canada’s Graham DeLaet – carded a 67 and are tied for fifth.
American Tiger Woods, an eight-time champion at Firestone, is tied for ninth with a 68. The other golfers tied with Woods are Wales’ Jamie Donaldson, Spain’s Sergio Garcia, and Americans Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley.
Moore started on No. 10 and made birdie on 15, 2, 5, 6 and 8 in his 65. He made par on the other 13 holes.
“I drove it really well all day,” Moore said. “As long as you’re on the fairways here, you can attack the pins. You can hit – be aggressive just because the greens are somewhat receptive. Pretty much, that was kind of my key. I was on the fairway and just gave myself some good looks at the pins, and I was able to give myself a lot of really good chances.”
One of his best shots was a birdie on 8 when he chipped in from about 15 feet. When asked by a reporter why he didn’t fist pump or show much emotion after the shot, he said “No, not on Thursday with about seven people watching us [the twosome of he and American Harris English].”
Schwartzel also started on No. 10 and made a birdie. He equaled that feat on 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7. His round also included a bogey on 1.
“It started off not being my A-game,” Schwartzel said. “I was left and right and hitting some good recovery shots and just not losing any momentum.
“I made a fantastic birdie on the very first hole I played at the trees.”
Rose made his start on No. 1 and proceeded to play a bogey-free round with birdies on 2, 9, 15, 16 and 18.
“So many times on tour we talk about ‘left a couple out there and stuff like that,’ ” Rose said. “I think today was one of those days where I got the most out of my round, so very pleasing.
“A few times early in my round, I was in a little bit of trouble, especially on the third hole, hit it right where I had to chip out, missed the green with a wedge, but chipped in for par. So little breaks like that today obviously kept the momentum going.”
Reed’s round featured six birdies and three bogeys. Molinari had four birdies and one bogey en route to a 67.
“[I’m] very happy with the start,” Molinari said. “Played very well on the front nine, maybe not as well on the back nine, but putted better. … The course is always in great shape in Akron.”
DeLaet had three birdies on his way to a 67. Fowler had five birdies and two bogeys.
“Definitely was seeing my putts pretty well today,” Fowler said. “I was able to save some shots that way. Made a couple of good putts – one good putt for bogey on the back nine to kind of hang around and give myself a chance to finish out strong.”