Texan Leonard Back in the Saddle
``I'm walking to the 10th tee and this guy says, 'Nice putt,' and I turned around and looked at him like he was crazy,'' Leonard recalled. ``I had to fight myself from walking back there to say something.
``Then, I realized he was probably talking about last week. At least I hope he was.''
The year was 1999, and the week before, Leonard stood 45 feet away from the hole on the 17th green at The Country Club with nothing less than the Ryder Cup on the line and his country counting on him.
What followed became one of the most famous shots in golf.
When the ball banged into the back of the cup, the Americans were assured the half-point they needed to pull off the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.
Leonard was the hero.
Little did the patriotic Texan know when he walked off the course, it would be four years before he would get a chance to return to the atmosphere he cherishes.
Leonard and Jim Furyk will represent the United States in the World Cup this week at Kiawah Island, S.C., then join the rest of the U.S. team at the Presidents Cup in South Africa.
``I've missed it a lot,'' Leonard said.
Certain shots can become a player's legacy.
David Duval's 6-foot eagle putt to shoot 59. Hal Sutton's 6-iron into the 18th green to hold off Tiger Woods at The Players Championship. Ben Hogan's 1-iron into the 18th green at Merion in the U.S. Open.
Leonard is a major champion. Coincidentally, the decisive blow when he won the '97 British Open at Royal Troon also was a long birdie putt on the 17th. A year later, he came from five strokes behind to win The Players Championship.
But mention his name, and the first thing that comes to mind - maybe the only thing - is the Ryder Cup. The twisted part of Leonard's fame is that he's never even won a Ryder Cup match.
Everyone remembers the putt. Not many realize that Leonard only halved his match against Jose Maria Olazabal.
Throw in the Presidents Cup, and Leonard's record in team matches is bordering on pathetic - one victory, nine losses, five ties.
``I know it's pretty bad,'' Leonard said. ``I know I haven't won a lot of matches. I've tied a lot of matches, but I've lost a bunch. I'd certainly like to change that.''
Leonard, who played in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup four years in a row, never imagined having to wait so long for the next opportunity.
Some of it was bad play. Some of it was bad timing.
He went through a slump in 2000 and just missed out on the Presidents Cup. Leonard hired Butch Harmon to retool his swing, and he didn't adapt to the changes until after the 2001 Ryder Cup team was selected.
Then came the one-year delay because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
``It's been strange the last couple of times to be on the outside looking in,'' he said.
Leonard seems to have all the right ingredients for match play, especially the team variety. He is easily paired. He generally keeps the ball in front of him. While he's not a power player, Leonard has a gritty short game and a knack for making pivotal putts.
So, what gives with that 1-9-5 record?
Nothing that can be explained. Nothing for which he should apologize.
``He's a guy you want out there making putts that are important,'' said Davis Love III, who walked with Leonard during his comeback against Olazabal in the Ryder Cup. ``His record is not that good, but he played the best stretch of six holes maybe in Ryder Cup history. He knows he can do it.''
One of the most overrated aspects of the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup or Solheim Cup is an individual's record, especially the team variety.
There are countless stories about two guys who play well enough to win any match during that session except the one they're playing.
Records never reflect how well, or how poorly, a partner is playing.
``His record is not the greatest,'' Furyk said of Leonard. ``But he's a hell of a teammate.''
Love would be the first to admit that he played below his standards in the 1998 Presidents Cup by hitting a few errant tee shots and plenty of missed putts. He and Leonard were 0-1-1 as a team, and that halve was courtesy of Leonard's approach into 6 feet on the final hole for birdie.
``I put him under some trees,'' Love said. ``We were both not good, but I killed him. If not for me, he would have won a few matches.''
Raymond Floyd was as tough as they come, yet his record was 12-16-3 in the eight Ryder Cups he played - and he was on the winning side seven times.
Tiger Woods is 10-13-2 in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
``People don't talk about Bernhard Langer's record or Nick Faldo's record in the Ryder Cup,'' Woods said. ``They talk about how many teams they made. That's what is important.''
Leonard is back on the team. To him, that's what matters the most.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.
The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.
There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18
Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.
With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.
Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.
The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.
In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.