Leishman within stroke at Nelson after opening 65

Marc Leishman is still looking for his first victory on the PGA

Tour, three years after being the top rookie.

After an opening 5-under 65 at the Byron Nelson Championship,

putting him within a stroke of leader Ryan Palmer, Leishman doesn’t

have to worry about some of the mental hurdles he’s been working to

overcome.

”I obviously still want to win, but I think I was pushing a bit

too hard,” Leishman said after Thursday’s round. ”Thinking about

it too early in the week. Making a bogey or a couple of bogeys on

the front nine and thinking, `Oh, I’m done.’ … You don’t have to

play perfect to win. I’m learning that. I think it takes a fair

while to learn that.”

Leishman was close to flawless to start the Nelson, with only

one bogey before two eagles on the back nine. Alex Cejka also had a

65.

Palmer, the Nelson runner-up in a playoff last year, had a

bogey-free opening round.

That is a good start for the local resident thinking about

redemption and a chance to hold up the Nelson trophy.

A year ago, Palmer birdied the 72nd hole to force a playoff

against Keegan Bradley. Palmer then hit his approach into the

greenside water to hand Bradley his first tour title.

”I didn’t lose it last year by any means,” Palmer said. ”But

to get back in the same setting with the same people watching, here

where I live, and just to have that feeling again, this time be the

guy standing with the trophy, that’s been my focus.”

With only a light breeze, 85 players were at par or better in

the first round on the 7,166-yard course where Palmer and Bradley

finished 72 holes last year at 3-under 277. The winds are forecast

to be much stronger Friday and Saturday, like they were as the 2011

tournament progressed.

Coming off his victory at The Players Championship last weekend,

Matt Kuchar overcome an opening bogey and was in a group of seven

players at 66.

”Coming off momentum, a little tired,” said Kuchar, No. 5 in

the world ranking. ”It was a whole lot of extracurricular

activities out of the norm for me, but I feel good about the

round.”

Kuchar’s approach shot at No. 1 went over the green. He tried to

putt it up the hill, but the ball ended up rolling back to his

feet, prompting someone in the gallery to say, ”I could have done

that.”

When Kuchar tried again, he got the ball within 4 feet for his

only bogey. He was under par to stay after birdies at Nos. 3 and

4.

Bradley, who won the PGA Championship three months after the

Nelson, was among 13 players who shot 67. His up-and-down round

included four bogeys, five birdies and an eagle.

The only other top 10 player this week is 10th-ranked Phil

Mickelson. Back at the Nelson for the first time in five years, he

had a 70 with two birdies and two bogeys.

”It’s a beautiful day, it’s warm, not too hot, the greens are

in great shape. They’re receptive, you can get the ball stopped,”

said Mickelson, the 1996 Nelson champ. ”Really good opportunity to

take advantage of the course, and I just didn’t.”

Palmer is sticking to the formula that worked last year at the

Nelson, letting caddie James Edmondson call all the shots, telling

him what and where to hit.

”Continuation from last year, that’s what’s cool,” Palmer

said. ”For some reason, I get in the frame of mind with this golf

course and what me and him are doing, and it was the same exact

thing. I didn’t move until he put the bag down and half of the time

he pulled the club out of the bag and handed it to me, I didn’t

know what the club was.”

Leishman, the 28-year-old Australian, hit 11 of 14 fairways and

needed only 24 putts Thursday.

”It probably took longer than I would have liked to have a good

round like this,” he said.

The 65 was Leishman’s best of 41 rounds this season and lowest

since another 65 in the first of his 84 rounds last year, when he

slipped to 65th in the FedEx standings – 45 spots below his

standout rookie year of 2009.

”Last year was pretty disappointing. I felt like I got off to a

good start and then just about nothing for the rest of the year,

really,” Leishman said. ”It’s the first time since I’ve been a

pro that I’ve struggled for a decent amount of time, just not

hitting the ball as well as I would like to, not holing putts. This

year, I feel like I’m doing everything a lot better.”