Marc Leishman would never trade family for the Claret Jug, but he may be cuddling both on Monday night after setting gloomy St Andrews alight.
Three months after almost quitting golf to be a grieving full-time father, Leishman flirted with the British Open scoring record to briefly snare the clubhouse lead during Sunday’s helter-skelter third round.
His blazing eight-under-par 64 – featuring eight birdies in a spectacular 12-hole stretch – catapulted the Victorian to nine under for the tournament, ultimately leaving him just three shots behind joint leaders Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen and brazen young Irish amateur Paul Dunne.
Leishman has a history of going low at the Open after closing with a sizzling 65 to finish equal fifth last year with Adam Scott – who is also on nine under for the tournament – at Royal Liverpool.
But that was before the 31-year-old’s world almost came crashing down.
Sitting out the US Masters in April was the least of Leishman’s concern as wife Audrey fought for her life in a Virginia Beach hospital.
Battling toxic shock syndrome, a life-threatening respiratory infection, she was given less than five per cent chance of surviving and Leishman braced for the worst.
“It was a huge possibility that I wasn’t going to be playing golf anymore,” Leishman said.
“Travelling with a one-year-old and a three-year-old by yourself … well, it wasn’t going to happen. I wouldn’t do that to the boys.
“At the time it was just: `Righto, you’re going to have to give it away and stay home with the boys and be a dad’.
“And that was the most important thing, and I was all right with that.
“Obviously the outcome; Audrey is all right now and it’s a lot better. It’s great that she’s healthy again.
“But, yeah, that was pretty rough there for a while, thinking about everything; the boys not growing up with their mum, me not playing golf anymore, not having a wife.
“It was just everything. Unfortunately it probably happens every day to people around the world. We were just really lucky that she’s on the mend.”
Bidding to become Australia’s first Open champion since Greg Norman in 1993, Leishman said he’d toast his wife if he raised the Claret Jug.
“Obviously it would be massive,” Leishman said after falling one shot short of matching the Shark’s joint record-low Open round of 63 at Turnberry in 1986.
“That’s the goal now. Today the goal was to shoot a good round and get myself (into contention) so I had a chance tomorrow.
“It would be great to get a hold of that trophy and nice to take it back for Audrey and the boys.
“But there’s obviously a lot that has to happen between now and Monday night to do that. But that would be awesome.
“I’m sure it would be, yeah, a pretty big party.”