QLD’s McLeod the unknown man in top field
Jake McLeod has literally landed in Mexico as a grey, shadowy unknown for his biggest golf thrill playing in the same field as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
The breakout Queensland star is guaranteed a cool $70,000-plus even if finishes at the tail of the elite 64-man field which he has no intention of doing.
The Mexico Championship is a $14 million shootout for the sport's finest yet there was not the free thinking to organise a photo of McLeod for the tournament website.
McLeod only appears as anonymous grey cutout between headliners McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.
"I'll have to get that updated with a new head and shorter hair," McLeod said with a laugh because his trademark man-bun has been to the barber shop.
The Order of Merit winner from the PGA Tour of Australasia admits there will be nerves when he tees up on Thursday among the who's who of golf.
"I get nerves most weeks and there'll be a few more this time but in a good way," McLeod, 24, said.
Shooting a hot 65 in the Saudi International earlier this month and finishing the event ahead of former world No.1 Brooks Koepka was a confidence-booster.
"There were some legends in that field and it was really good to see I could compete even when I was still to find my best ball-striking," McLeod said.
It's not Woods who McLeod finds the coolest figure in golf but Swede Henrik Stenson.
"Henrik was walking into the locker room as I was walking out in Saudi and I just had to get a selfie," McLeod said a little sheepishly.
"He kinda looked at me, 'but you're playing.' He was happy to do it.
"I just think he's the best ball striker, a cool guy."
The NSW Open champion feels his putter and short game are ready for Mexico but there is an extra dimension to perform at the Club de Golf Chapultepec.
The course is about 2400m above sea level which means he'll be playing at a higher altitude than the the peak of Mt Kosciuszko (2228m).
"I've never played at such high altitude before where the golf ball can fly another 20m or more in the thin air," McLeod said.
"Such a tournament will be another step for me and being mentally sharp is going to be really important."
Catching up with Cameron Smith for a practice round will be invaluable because his former Queensland amateur teammate will offer him the most honest advice.
This time last year, McLeod was playing in the Coca-Cola Queensland PGA which gets underway for a $150,000 purse on Thursday at Toowoomba's City Golf Club.
Former Queensland Open champion Andrew Dodt, evergreen Peter Senior, Peter Lonard, James Nitties and former State of Origin footballer Ben Ikin, playing as an amateur, are in the field.