ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Marc Leishman was thinking about a record.
He'll gladly settle for a 64 — especially knowing there's more to life than low scores.
His perspective changed by his wife's life-threatening illness, Leishman surged up the leaderboard Sunday at the British Open with the best major round of his career. The Aussie shot 8-under par in the third round after taking a run at the lowest round anyone has ever recorded in a major.
Leishman was at 9-under 207 overall, just one shot off the top spot as he headed to the clubhouse, having finished his round before 36-hole leader Dustin Johnson even teed off.
"It was disappointing not to go a couple better," Leishman said. "But still, as far as this week goes, 64 gets me right back in it."
Leishman had reasonable birdie attempts at the 16th and 17th holes but missed them both. And the 18th was there for the taking until his wedge shot rolled back into the Valley of Sin, leading to another par. He was one shot from joining the select group of players who've shot 63 in a major.
"I'd say probably (hole) 13 or 14, that's when it started to enter my mind," Leishman said.
Not that he'll get too upset about missing his shot at history.
Back in April, while preparing for the Masters, Leishman's wife Audrey was hospitalized with a mysterious, flu-like illness. When her husband got word that her condition was worsening, he dropped out of the Masters and raced home. Audrey's organs began to shut down and she was put into a medically induced coma, the doctors telling Marc they didn't know if she would survive.
Over the next week, her condition slowly improved and she regained consciousness. Now, even though she still lacks energy, Audrey is back home with the couple's two young children and on the road to a full recovery.
"It's changed my whole perspective on life," Leishman said. "I feel like I've always had a pretty good outlook on life, but now it takes a lot more to worry me. I don't get annoyed about little things that I can't really help. When you hit a bad shot, there's no real point getting frustrated about it because you tried to hit a good shot, you didn't, move on."
Leishman considered quitting the game while his wife was battling for her life, pondering the possibility that he'd have to raise their two sons on his own.
"Traveling with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old by yourself — well, that wasn't going to happen. I wouldn't do that to the boys. They were too young to know what's going on," he said. He told himself, "you're going to have to give it away and stay home with the boys and be a dad. That was the most important thing, and I was all right with that."
Fortunately for Leishman, it didn't come to that.
Making another strong showing in the Open, Leishman took advantage of conditions that were ripe for scoring, the greens softened by rain and nary a hint of a breeze. He knocked in 20-foot birdies putts at the 10th and 11th holes, then made a 15-footer at the No. 15.
Even though he missed out on the scoring record, he's right in the mix at the British Open.
Instead of worrying about his wife and what the future might hold, he's envisioning what it would be like to claim the claret jug on Monday.
"There's no reason why I can't have another good one," said Leishman, who tied for fifth a year ago at Royal Liverpool. "It would be great to get a hold of that trophy and take it back for Audrey and the boys."
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