Australians do like their holidays and they celebrate like no other nation – I’ve been there during horse racing’s Melbourne Cup and everything seemed to shut for two days.
They had an extra reason to cheer at the weekend, when Aussies Lucas Herbert and Marc Leishman marked Australia Day by winning on the European Tour and PGA Tour respectively.
Herbert’s victory, in a play-off with Christiaan Bezuidenhout at the Dubai Desert Classic, was very big. The 24-year-old’s first on the tour, it means his card is safe for three years.
It can be tough for Australians on the European Tour as they are so much further from their families. Wins like means Herbert can get a home in Europe and use it as his base.
I felt sorry for Bezuidenhout, who found water and bogied the par-five 18th when he only needed par for the title.
But he’s a proven winner so will do so again and this duel between two prospects may prove to be a glimpse into the future.
Leishman, meanwhile, played a blistering round of 65 at Torrey Pines to set a formidable target of 15 under par for overnight leader Jon Rahm, who stumbled, surged back into contention and then fell just short.
I find it incredible that Rahm failed to check the scoreboard after Leishman had finished with a birdie, meaning that the Spaniard didn’t know he needed an eagle to force a play-off.
You’re the last man on the course; you have to know what is required. Hopefully this is a huge learning curve for him.
Rory McIlroy had an extraordinary round – three over through four holes, then three birdies and an eagle in the next five – as he shared third place on his first start of the year.
Tiger Woods looked good on his 2020 debut too, ending up tied for ninth.
I’m excited to see what’s to come from him this season. A Masters defence will be very much in his crosshairs.
Leishman came close to Major glory at The Open in 2015 and has since become a regular winner – Sunday’s was his fifth on the PGA Tour.
That next step is a big one and of course he is capable, whether at the Masters or elsewhere.
It becomes a psychological test, too, though and nowhere does history weigh more heavily than at Augusta, which has hosted more Majors than any other venue.
But self-belief is a wonderful thing and who knows what this latest win will do for Leishman? He likes to fade the ball, as Jack Nicklaus did – and he won six Green Jackets.
As for Australians: sure, Australia Day would have spurred them on a wee bit.
Herbert and Leishman will also have been inspired by seeing compatriot Cameron Smith win on the PGA Tour earlier this month.
When you’re coming down the stretch, however, none of that is anywhere in sight.
It is all about the player with the club in their hand and how they handle the situation.