Leonard Stays the Course Through Life Change Swing Change

By George WhiteApril 23, 2002, 4:00 pm
So Justin Leonard comes walking up to Harbour Towns 18th hole, and everything was picture-perfect. Cool as a cucumber? Yep, just like the old clich says. Nervous? No, certainly not that we could tell. A winner? Yes, most definitely. He had a one-stroke lead and the ball was sitting just off the green ' as close as humanly possible to a dead-certain two-putt for the trophy.

Leonard is a dead-ringer for that stereotype of the savoir faire gentleman, dont you think? Weight down to a perfect 160. Hair perfectly positioned, even though it was covered by a cap. His shirt ' perfectly laundered, and the sweat stains didnt even think of showing. His trousers were neatly pressed with the creases still as though they had just come out of his closet. Rumor has it that he blew his nose somewhere around No. 10, but he didnt just mess up a Kleenex and toss it aside. He probably carries a starched white handkerchief, and when he finishes using it, back into his pocket it goes ' carefully folded, of course.
 
Oh ' he plays golf very well, too. Somehow we forget that. He doesnt win all that often, but when he does, its usually a biggie. The British Open in 1997, the Players Championship in 98. Hes won a couple of Texas Opens, a Kemper Open, a Buick Open. And now, a WorldCom title with the jacket that must have been fashionable in the 1960s. The only thing that looked out of place with Leonard was when he had to put on the garment ' the pattern clashed loudly with the color of his shirt.
 
Justin says hes changed his swing, though you couldnt tell it with the untrained eye. He stands straight up and swings around his body. He doesnt have a whole lot of movement. His swing has always been ' well, fastidious. Most players would think a swat that won the Brit Open and the Players, that has never sent him spiraling out of the top 25, would be pretty much a fixture. But he and coach Butch Harmon saw some things that need reworking, and they changed it.
 
The problem was that, from week to week, Leonard would lose it just enough that he didnt always feel competitive.
 
I felt like I struggled too much, he said. For the kind of player I was, I shouldnt be a streaky player. And I felt like I struggled too much in between good rounds.
 
I figured I had four or five good tournaments that year (2000, when he made the change), and the rest of it was struggling. And thats just no fun. So I felt like I needed to do something about it.
Leonard made a very big change in his personal life, too. In February, he got married, thus taking the tours second-most eligible bachelor off the blocks (Tigers still single, but thats in jeopardy at the moment.)
 
Justin met Amanda Beach in the parking garage where he lives. He was coming out and she was about to go in, her arms full of parcels. Leonard, always the gallant one, graciously offered his services. She had no idea who Justin Leonard was, but she gladly accepted the help. The rest is well, you get the picture. They were wed in February.
 
Leonard says the biggest thing about the wedding is just having it behind us. The preparation was a bit much, but it always is when you enter a life-altering change like this. He enjoyed it, he says, but hes glad its over. Now that thats over, hes found marriage to be quite pleasant, actually.
 
I dont know what I did when I was traveling alone, he said. I had to be bored out of my mind. Its great to find somebody that I want to be with all the time. Its incredible, said Leonard, who finds married life to the former Miss Beach quite comfy now in his 30th year.
 
It was partly a concession to Amanda that Justin was at Hilton Head. You see, she heard about tennis lessons at the island. Leonard wasn't particularly successful at Harbour Town in years past, but he gallantly agreed to go. So Amanda got her tennis, and Justin got his nice plaid jacket.
 
A lot, though, has changed since 97 when he won his major. And Leonard has done his best to keep pace.
 
I think I probably play a little more aggressively, because you have to, the way the players are out here and what you have to do to win, he said. Leonard, with his small stature, has always been a relatively short hitter.
 
But his wedge play and putting has always been his calling card, and it certainly was Sunday. Eleven times during the round he had to either putt, chip or wedge it to get up-and-down and keep the round going.
 
Leonard was winning for seventh time and he has been a pro for seven years. Thats pretty much been his rate of success ' one per year. He won twice one year, didnt win any another year. But other than that, its been a win a year.
 
And his victory at Hilton Head maintained that record. He has undergone swing changes and life changes, but one thing has not change ' he is still neat-as-a-pin Justin Leonard.
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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.