BMW Championship leader Marc Leishman has vowed to atone for his recent crushing defeat in Boston as he chases his first wire-to-wire victory on the US PGA Tour. The 33-year-old Leishman headlines an Australian assault on the leaderboard, with countrymen Jason Day and Cameron Smith in the mix at the penultimate FedEx Cup play-offs event in Chicago.
Fresh off losing a two-stroke lead going into the back nine on Sunday at TPC Boston two weeks ago, Leishman has steamrolled through a star-studded 70-man field to post a five-shot 54-hole lead at Conway Farms.
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The Victorian backed up two stellar opening rounds with a three-under-par 68 on Saturday to climb to 19-under-par, with world No.9 Day and Rickie Fowler each carding a 70 to share second at 14-under.
England’s Justin Rose fired a 66 to take outright fourth at 12-under. Leishman said dropping five shots on the back nine at TPC Boston, handing American world No.4 Justin Thomas his fifth Tour win of the season, was a bitter pill to swallow.
“I usually say to my wife, if I have a bad round, give me 10 minutes and I’ll be OK. (Boston) took a day. It stung a bit,” said Leishman.
“Even though I had Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas on my tail, when you’re leading it’s hard to get overtaken on the back-nine. I’ll be doing my very best not to happen again.” Chasing his second PGA Tour victory this year, history suggests Leishman can get the job done.
Of the 13 times a player has held a 54-hole lead of five shots or more during the past five years, 11 have gone on to win.
Leishman has never led the first three rounds of a PGA Tour event and came from behind during his two PGA Tour wins; the 2012 Travelers Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year.
Day, who played in the final group with Leishman on Saturday, said beating his in-form compatriot was going to be a tough task.
“’Leish’ is playing spectacular; he’s going to be very difficult to beat tomorrow,” said Day, who went wire-to-wire during his 2015 BMW Championship win. “I’ve got to come out and play really good golf because he’s not making any mistakes.
“He’s hitting it in the right spots on the greens and holing putts. That’s a good formula for success.” Rounding out the Australian contingent on the leaderboard is Brisbane’s Cameron Smith, who carded a 69 to move to 10-under and be in a tie for 12th. The 24-year-old needs at least a fourth-placed finish to advance to next week’s 30-man Tour Championship.
The BMW Championship is the penultimate event of the PGA Tour’s $US67 million FedEx Cup series and will determine the top-five seedings for the Tour Championship.