Leonard May Not Look It but Hes Ornery
He doesnt look like hes ever going to get the job done. But he has - eight times. If beauty had anything to do with it, Corey Pavin wouldnt have won 14 times. Jim Furyk wouldnt have won seven times. And Ernie Els or Fred Couples or David Duval would never lose a tournament.
But there you have Justin, and if he still looks like the fraternity kid on spring break, so be it. Truth is, he has a tremendous amount of grit. And he has a lot more talent than meets the eye. He hangs around, winning one of these things every year, just often enough to say, Remember me? And at that point, you remember, Sure ' Justin Leonard! Hes sneaky effective ' witness the 1997 British Open when he was the winner.
Leonard is 5-feet-9 and only 160 pounds. He speaks in a rather nasal voice. But all that is just window dressing. Somewhere underneath all that, theres a pretty tough customer. Give him a final-round position somewhere near the top and hell fight all way until the sun goes behind the clouds.
I feel like the tougher it gets, the more you have on the line, Leonard once said last year. I don't know, I think I look forward to that. I look forward to a challenge.
I'd sure like to make it look easier at times, I know that. It would be easier on me, it would be easier on my wife and friends and family. There's something special about gutting something out, and whether it's golf or whatever you may do, it really proves what you're made of.
Look at the majors last year ' he finished in a tie for 20th at the Masters, a tie for 12th in the U.S. Open despite a course that played as long as Yellowstone Park, tied for 14th at the British Open, and a tie for fourth at the PGA. He wasnt really spectacular, you think ' one win, one second over the year-long grind ' but he finished in the top-20 17 times. And he only teed it up 26 times.
Leonard, of course, is a wizard with the putter. He sank what may go down as the most famous putt in history ' the 45-footer in the 99 Ryder Cup that provoked the wild U.S. celebration on the 17th green. But much more than that single incident, he has proven to be a pretty tough hombre with the little stick down through the years. He finished 18th in the rankings last year and is sixth this year.
You look at Brad Faxon's stroke versus Loren Roberts stroke and they go at it totally different, he said in trying to explain what is common to all good putters. I think they are both great readers of greens and they putt with a lot of confidence all the time.
That's something that I kind of fight sometimes is not having a whole lot of confidence, but I think we all go through bouts of that. I don't think there's one thing that you have to do to become a great putter. If there was, we would all be great putters.'
And if it were easy to pull off a victory, the entire tour would be winners. One thing is certain, though ' Leonard is more likely to win if he is coming from behind than if he is out front all by himself. There isnt a question if you should go for the flag or not. Your decision is made for you.
Youre forced into it, he agrees. And sometimes, that's a good thing because there's no real decision on whether, Hey, should I aim at this pin, or should I play it safe? When you're coming from that many strokes behind, you kind of have to go at pins.
He may be a neat-freak (he is). He may have an unorthodox swing (he does). But one thing is, he will always be a fighter. Some will result in wins, some wont. But Justin Leonard is not going to quit on you.
Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook sank a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at RSM Classic.
Cook has gone 36 holes without making a bogey on the Plantation Course or the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.
Cook was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.
Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back.
Bubba (64) fires his lowest round of 2017
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Bubba Watson’s plan when he left the Dell Technologies Championship in September was to take a few months off and come back fresh in 2018
Those plans changed after a few weeks.
“What we figured out was the mental side, preparing for kindergarten - not for me, for my son - preparing for [wife] Angie's knee surgery. It's been a tough go,” Watson said.
“Being home and being with the family and everything, I realized how much I missed the game of golf, and that's why I wanted to come and play in these tournaments.”
The plan has paid off this week at the RSM Classic, where Watson is tied for 12th place after a second-round 64 on the Seaside course moved him to 7 under par.
Watson, who tied for 51st two weeks ago in Las Vegas, got off to a quick start on Day 2, playing the opening nine in 29. Despite a miscue at the 14th hole, when his tee shot wedged into a tree, he was solid coming in for his best individual round this year.
The left-hander was particularly sharp with his ball-striking after what has been a difficult year.
“I want to play golf now and right now I'm swinging at it pretty nicely,” he said.
S.H. Park (65) builds three-shot lead at LPGA finale
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made five straight birdies and seized control late in the round with an eagle for a 7-under 65 and a three-shot lead in the CME Group Tour Championship.
The lead might have been larger except for Park's three-putt bogey on the 18th hole at Tiburon Golf Club.
Not only was she three ahead of Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith, none of the other players vying for all the awards was within five shots. Lexi Thompson shot a 67 and wound up losing ground. She was six shots behind.
Park was at 12-under 132. A victory would allow the 24-year-old South Korean to sweep all the big awards and become the first rookie since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to win LPGA player of the year.
Korda sisters poised to make a run at CME
NAPLES, Fla. – Jessica Korda wasn’t feeling well making her way around the CME Group Tour Championship battling congestion Friday, but the leaderboard walking to the ninth tee gave her a nice lift.
That’s where she saw younger sister Nelly’s name tucked right next to hers.
They were within a shot of each other amid hard charges up the leaderboard, with Nelly playing just in front of her.
“I was like, 'Dang!’ It was good to see,” said Jessica, 24. “It’s fun to see her playing this well. I know what she puts into it. I’m kind of jealous of the rookie year she’s having, because mine sucked.”
Nelly, 19, is looking to put a special ending on her first year on tour. She posted a 6-under-par 66, good for a tie for fourth, six shots behind Sung Hyun Park (65). Nelly has given herself a weekend shot at her first victory.
Just a year ago, Nelly was here as a spectator, watching her sister.
“I found it funny,” Nelly said. “I was walking to the range on Tuesday, thinking just last year, people were asking me, 'When are you going to be out here?’ It seems surreal to be out here, playing alongside my sister and the best players in the world.
“Being in contention is really, really special.”
Jessica shot 68 and sits a shot behind her sister.
Nelly said seeing the leaderboard gave her a lift, too.
“Maybe it amps me up just a little bit,” Nelly said. “It’s a friendly competition. Even though we want each other to succeed, we also want to beat each other. I think she would say that, too.”
Jessica is seeking her fifth LPGA title. She’s coming off a tie for third at the Blue Bay LPGA last week.
Jessica is 35th on the LPGA money list this year, with $515,521 in earnings. Nelly is 51st, with $388,983 in earnings.
“I definitely look for Jess on the board,” Nelly said. “We’ve very supportive of each other.”