Elkington: Leishman can shine at Augusta with spotlight on Woods

Major winner Steve Elkington says the "naturally gifted" Marc Leishman can mount a challenge at Augusta this week.

Marc Leishman and his son putting at Augusta   -  Getty Images

Marc Leishman is among the players who can benefit from the spotlight being on Tiger Woods and emerge as a contender to win the Masters, according to Steve Elkington. 

All eyes will be on a resurgent Woods when the 14-time champion tees off along with Leishman and Tommy Fleetwood at 10.42am local time on Thursday.

Four-time Masters champions Woods has not been among the field at Augusta since 2015, but heads into the first major of the year on the back of promising form on his latest return from injury.

While Woods will attract much of the focus in Georgia, 1995 US PGA Championship winner Elkington believes his fellow Australian Leishman is one to keep an eye on.

"I do see him as a contender. He's been through the wringer a few times, he was close to the British [Open] at St Andrews [when he was runner-up in 2015], then he won Bay Hill last year," Elkington told Omnisport.

"Leishman can absolutely be up there, he doesn't look as polished as some of the other guys, but he is so skilled.

"Almost like a Greg Norman, as great as Greg Norman was, his swing was fast-paced and had a lot of whiplash in it etc, but he was such a skilled athlete. He could do anything, still can, and Leishman kind of falls into that boat, he's a really skilled athlete and is naturally gifted.

"The best part of his game is his putting. When the pressure gets on Leishman he putts better."

Elkington says the form of both Woods and Phil Mickelson heading into the tournament can work in their rivals' favour, but he would not be surprised to see the American duo in contention on Sunday.

He added: "I think with Tiger and Phil Mickelson both playing so well, they have taken a lot of pressure off guys like Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson.

"The thing with Tiger is, he has such an advantage over everyone at else at Augusta because he has so much knowledge of the course. Mickelson is in the same boat.

"I would save if I was handicapping, they would have a one-shot advantage over everyone in the field before they even tee off and that is a lot in the space of a week.

"They have won it seven times between them and they can manage their game around there."

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