Leishman hopeful LIV, PGA can co-exist

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A breakthrough in Australia would earn Marc Leishman an advantage over his good friend Cameron Smith and potentially a return to next year’s Masters.

But the LIV Golf convert won’t be kicking if the seeding boost he needs at the Australian PGA Championship from Thursday, or the Australian Open to follow, doesn’t happen.

Without any world ranking points earned since switching to the Rebel Tour in August, Leishman fell to 71st, outside the top 50 at the year-end Masters and the PGA Championship.

But he knew it would be so.

“I’ve had opportunities; I’ve played every major tournament for the past 12 years,” he said at Royal Queensland in Brisbane on Wednesday.

“I hope I can play another eight or 10 years. But…that was one of the things that weighed in when I made the decision to go to LIV. That, you know, I couldn’t maybe not play them anymore.”

Leishman has “no idea” if the controversial splinter league, still at odds with the PGA Tour and its high-profile members, can soon co-exist.

But he insists they should and says there has been no coldness with his compatriots since returning home.

“Once people see the product… not everyone will accept it, but the PGA Tour and the LIV are both great products,” he said.

“They’re just very different.”

Leishman and Smith played the new tour as part of an all-Australian team with Wade Ormsby and Matt Jones, the pair also handed over the keys to market the franchise to LIV boss Greg Norman.

But that friendship will be sidelined from Thursday, especially after Smith came two strokes behind Leishman to win the PGA title at Gold Coast’s Royal Pines in 2018.

“He was a little lucky (that day), but it takes a lot of luck to win tournaments, so I don’t blame him,” Leishman said.

“It would be nice to get one back.”

World No. 3 Smith will tee off Thursday morning in a marquee group with Masters champion Adam Scott and Links Championship winner Ryan Fox from the 10th tee.

Leishman will play with exciting West Australian Min Woo Lee and Polish Irish Open champion Adrian Meronk in the afternoon session.

Defending champion Jed Morgan, President’s Cup pick Cam Davis and Danish rising talent Rasmus Hojgaard will follow Smith’s group in a busy morning session.

Former US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy has been grouped with Victoria’s world No. 55 Lucas Herbert and Western Australian Jason Scrivener.

Around 40,000 spectators lined the fairways when the tournament returned to Royal Queensland in January, even without its overseas-based talent due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Others are set to welcome back some of the biggest names in Australian golf after a three-year absence, with $2million in prize money up for grabs at the DP World Tour-sanctioned event.

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