Australia’s top world-ranked golfer recorded eight birdies in a five-under par 67 to finish the round one shot clear of the American duo of Brian Harman and Jhonattan Vegas who signed for 5-under 68s in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
World No.1 Dustin Johnson along with fellow American Rickie Fowler and South Korean Si Woo Kim are tied for fourth at four under while Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Cantlay, Kevin Kisner, Billy Horschel and Kyle Stanley share seventh place at three under.
Leishman was born in rural Victoria but has since made his home at Virginia Beach in Virginia where he resides with his wife and now three children but with the whole of the eastern States of the U.S. bracing for a massive “bombogenesis” — an area of rapidly declining low pressure — that will wreak further havoc including the threat of hurricane-force winter wind gusts and blinding snow.
The ‘bombogenesis’ will result in what’s known as a “bomb cyclone” and will be likely dump 6 to 12 inches of snow in New England and hurl 40 to 60-mph gusts.
Leishman, however, was more focussed on his golf than the expected Artic-like wild weather.
The current World No. 12 opened with a birdie at the first but a bogey at the third stalled him before going on a run of birdies at the fifth and three straight from Nos. 7-9 boosted him to a four-under 32.
He birdied the 10th, bogeyed the 11th, then birdied 15 and 17 to move to 6 under, where he would finish.
The 34-year-old had ended 2017 in a storm winning the BMW Championship thanks to a tournament record setting 23-under par for a second win last season after earlier in the year capturing the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“It was all pretty solid,” said Leishman.
“I played well, drove the ball pretty well – with the exception of a couple of drives – and the putter was really, really solid.
“So, happy with eight birdies.”
Defending champion Justin Thomas, whose victory here last year marked the start of a five-win season that included his first major title and the FedEx Cup playoff crown, carded a one-under par 71.
However, newly-engaged Jordan Spieth struggled with four bogeys and just two birdies for a two-over par 75 and the same score as Australia’s Cameron Smith to be lying in 30th place in the 34-player field.
Reigning US Open winner, Brooks Koepka, finds himself in last place in signing for a 78.