Now, seven years, three children and three PGA Tour victories later, it’s easy to concede that sometimes things don’t go as planned.
The Australian was playing his first year on Tour in ’09 and his trip to East Lake locked up the Rookie of the Year Award. It was also marked the last time he had played the finale before qualifying for this year's edition.
“The first year I got in, I wanted to make a habit of being here, and I didn't, so it's nice to be back here this year,” Leishman said on Wednesday. “Golf's a funny game. It can change very quickly.”
But then this time Leishman has done much more than simply qualify for the season-ending event. He arrives in Atlanta fourth on the playoff points list, which means if he wins the finale, he’ll also claim the FedExCup, fresh off what may be the most rewarding victory of his career last week at the BMW Championship.
Prior to the BMW, Leishman took a share of the lead into the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship only to close with a 1-under 70 that included a closing nine of 40 that resulted in a third-place finish.
There was no such let down at Conway Farms, where he led by five shots through 54 holes, birdied three of his final four holes and won by five strokes.
“At the Dell, I felt like I did hit a couple of bad shots at the wrong time. I don't feel like I would make any decisions differently, which that was a positive,” he said. “I generally sleep really well. I was nervous Saturday night [at the BMW]. That five-shot lead was hard to sleep on. I didn't sleep that much so that was a new feeling for me, and I dealt with it pretty well.”
It also gives Leishman confidence he can improve on his last, and only, trip to the Tour Championship in 2009, when he finished tied for 28th in the 30-man field.