Day top pick for Texas tournament

Former champion Jason Day and fellow Australian Marc Leishman have been labelled the players to beat at this week’s US PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship in Texas.

Day, who won at TPC Four Seasons in the Texan town of Irving in 2010, has been ranked the top pick by the well-regarded PGA Tour power rankings with Leishman deemed the second most likely to salute on Sunday.

This is despite Texan favourite and world No.2 Jordan Spieth and big-hitting world No.10 Dustin Johnson being in the field.

Leishman has been knocking on the door at the event for a long while.

In six starts he has five top-12 finishes, including two third place finishes, the last coming just last season.

And the Victorian enters the event on a high, having secured a place in next month’s US Open, sneaking in via his world ranking of 60 at the first qualifying cut off on Monday.

“There are a lot of holes that set up pretty good for me here and it is always windy so growing up in Warrnambool in the wind holds me in pretty good stead here,” said Leishman.

“I enjoy shaping shots against and with the wind so it is about judgement and feel.

“You have to feel shots rather than just trust yardages and the guy who can do it the best usually wins.

“The wet weather will change things a little bit but I’m still confident of a good week.”

The 31-year-old has just the one PGA tour win to his name from 2012 and feels it is time he now takes his game to another level.

While he has three top-10s in his last three World Golf Championship events and was fifth in the British Open last year he hasn’t had a regular tour event top-10 since last June.

“I definitely feel these events are where I need to step up,” Leishman said.

“Getting into contention is hard anywhere but I need a real sniff again on Sundays just for myself and to prove I can win and to have the feeling of holding another trophy.”

In his four attempts at the event, Day, now world No.8, has a victory and two further top-10s, with his worst result a tie for 27th two years ago.

The Queenslander enters the week with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove after crashing out of the Players Championship in his last start with a second round 81.

There is a distinct Australian flavour at the event with 10 other Australians in the field.

Steven Bowditch, Matt Jones, Geoff Ogilvy, John Senden, Rod Pampling, Cameron Smith, Aaron Baddeley, Robert Allenby, Cameron Percy and Greg Chalmers are all lining up.

Leishman wasn’t the only Australian to lock up a place for the US Open at Chambers Bay on June 18-21 with Marcus Fraser getting through the European qualifying site and Kurt Barnes doing the same in Japan.

They join Day, Adam Scott, Ogilvy and Senden as already exempt while numerous others will take a shot at one of 10 USA qualifying sites on June 8.

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