TO: The honorable Marc Leishman and the good people of Australia
FR: Your chastened correspondent
RE: My unfortunate tweet
I feel like we got off on the wrong foot. Perhaps you recall the 2015 Open Championship, where Jordan Spieth made a thrilling run at the Grand Slam on the hallowed turf of the Old Course. The leaderboard was glittering: Adam Scott and Justin Rose and Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen all looking to arrive on the doorstep of the Hall of Fame; Sergio Garcia and Jason Day seeking their major breakthroughs; Jordan Niebrugge, a 21-year-old amateur, bidding for the biggest upset this side of Francis Ouimet. Into this convergence of royalty and sentimentality ambled our man Leishman. To that point in his career he was a 31-year-old journeyman with one career victory in the big leagues. He was playing beautiful golf on the biggest stage of his life, and thus threatening to torpedo all the delicious storylines, and so I dashed off this tweet:
I will admit that when I typed those words I was thinking only about golf history, not the moving story of Leishman's wife Audrey, who only a few months earlier had nearly died when she suffered toxic shock in her organs and had to be put in a medically induced coma. She rallied heroically, and after a long absence her hubby returned to golf and played with both an enlarged perspective and newfound freedom. Of course, it is the personal stories of the athletes that makes sports so compelling, and while I was singularly focused on Spieth and the other big names, Leishman had captured the hearts and minds of the golfing public with his Cinderella charge at the Open. To say the least, my tweet was not well received. I have always enjoyed the Aussies' colorful slang and, via Twitter, the insults rained down upon me: cockwomble, muppet, arsehole, malaka, flog, mug, roaster and sundry others. It became such a thing that actual news stories would run the next day in Australia, with headlines like "Marc Leishman subject of insensitive Twitter post."
Rather than admit my mistake I doubled down with more spicy tweets. In the months and years that followed, Leishman blossomed into a big-time player, winning twice on the PGA Tour, once in South Africa and making a strong run at another Open in 2017. I tried for a while to root against him, just out of stubbornness, but it's impossible: he's too sweet of a guy and his game is way too much fun to watch. His comments about the game are a delight and I could watch him shape shots all day long.
So once again we're at a major championship where Leish's name shares the same leaderboard with many of golf's biggest names. And yet something unexpected has happened: I've found myself rooting for Leishman more than anyone else. A victory at this Masters by Rory or Rickie or P. Reed would resonate more in the larger sports world, but who cares? I'm all in on Leishman. So, to Marc and Audrey and all of my friends in Oz: I'm sorry. Please forgive me. We're in this together now. Here's hoping we can all cheer Leishman to victory. I'm pretty sure it won't be a letdown.
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