Positive attitude helping Leonard in tough time

By Jason SobelOctober 9, 2012, 1:54 pm

There is a familiar face among the has-beens and never-weres bouncing along the PGA Tour monetary bubble. Once one of the game’s most complete players, Justin Leonard is now desperately clinging to life as a fully exempt Tour member, trying to reclaim those privileges for another year.

Hardly an hour of recent Ryder Cup coverage passed without video of Leonard's historic putt from the 1999 edition of the event. You know the one. A 45-footer on the 17th hole which led to abject mayhem and – after the dust had settled – a victory for the American side.

There is a tangible contrast between the man who raised his arms triumphantly that day in Brookline and the one who caught bits and pieces of the competition this year, eventually sitting down for the final 45 minutes. He reports that the U.S. loss was “hard to watch” because of his close friendship with captain Davis Love III and so many players on the team.

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While that contrast perseveres, there remains a parallel between the American struggles and those of Leonard in his own game.

Four years ago, he appeared very much still in the prime of his career, winning once and finishing 10th on the final money list. The next season saw a decline, but hardly a serious one, as he finished 30th in money. Then two years ago, he came in 87th and last year – thanks to a solo second-place finish at the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Classic – he made a huge leap to finish 91st.

With three events remaining on this year’s schedule, he finds himself in the same place, mired in the 131st position on the money list. And yet, ask Leonard and he maintains that he’s in a much different place than ever before.

“I’m not as stressed out as some people might think or some other people might be,” he contends. “I’m still in a good position. I’ve seen some signs that I’m on the right track.”

The fact that Leonard isn’t feeling the pressure of his situation speaks volumes about his mentality toward it, which he insists hasn’t formed based on his backup plan. As the ninth-ranked player on the career money list, he will be able to use exemptions for either being in the top-25 or top-50 – in effect, two get-out-of-jail-free cards if he doesn’t finish in the top 125 once again. Of course, such cards are often best played close to the vest, so Leonard is hoping to save them for another year – or never have to use them at all.

While drifting from a perennial top-10 player to one fighting for his card would leave most players sulking in their courtesy cars, Leonard actually enjoys the perspective that it’s given him.

“I’ve had a long career,” he says. “I’ve seen the ups and downs. The periods like this help me appreciate when I am playing well. I think that for a while earlier in my career, I took a few things for granted. I can honestly say that’s not true anymore. I’m thankful to be out here and have the chance that I’ve gotten. I’m certainly not satisfied with my game and where I am, but I’m enthusiastic about it because I feel like I’ve turned a corner. As much as I would have loved for this year to be different, I think there are some real things I can grab onto to help me make a few changes.”

Those changes have helped define a new attitude toward the game and his current predicament.

“I know that five or 10 years ago, I would not have wanted to be around myself the last few months knowing how seriously I take everything,” he adds. “Golf has always been a focal point, but my priorities have changed with my faith and my marriage and my kids. It’s certainly something I strive to be excellent at, but now I’m better suited to handle the situation.

“Sure, I’d love to come out and play great these next few weeks and not have to take the exemption, but if I have to take the exemption, it’s no big deal.”

It’s a refreshing attitude for a player whose game has fallen on such hard times. Leonard owns just three top-25 results in 23 starts so far this season. What’s gone wrong? Well, consider this: He ranks outside the top-100 in driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation, sand save percentage, putting average, total eagles, total birdies, par-3 birdie percentage, par-4 birdie percentage, par-5 birdie percentage and scoring average.

As Leonard is quick to point out, though, things have been heading in the right direction. In his last three starts, he finished T-5 at the Reno-Tahoe Open, T-19 at the Wyndham Championship and after a hot start last week in Las Vegas, a T-33 at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

While he’s obviously striking the ball and rolling it better, Leonard maintains that his approach has been the biggest key to unlocking some recent success.

“I’m not stressing about rounds or shots; I’m just coming out with a little more of a relaxed attitude,” he says. “It’s easy to say it. To actually apply it has been difficult, but it’s something that I’m getting the hang of. I can see that kind of attitude really helping in my game and my approach each week and each day.”

If it continues helping, don’t be surprised to see Leonard sneak inside the top 125 once again this year. That’s not the end goal, though. His name has been broached as a possibility for the next Ryder Cup captain, but Leonard thinks he can return to that stage as a player, competing alongside the country’s best golfers two years from now.

He certainly has the right attitude to get back there.

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Watch that time Tiger throttled Ames, 9 and 8

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 20, 2018, 4:54 pm

Nine and eight. Three words that live in golf lore. Just say them and any golf fan can tell you what they mean.

In the 2006 WGC-Match Play, Tiger Woods faced Stephen Ames in the opening round. Ames, when asked prior to the event about his chance of winning, infamously said, "Anything can happen, especially where he's hitting it."

What happened on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at La Coasta Resort & Spa, was the most lopsided result in tournament history: 9 and 8 Check out the highlights below:

After his win, Woods was asked if Ames' comment had motivated him. Woods replied, "9 and 8."

Woods eventually lost, 1 up, to Chad Campbell in the third round. He then won his next start at Doral and went on to finish the season with six consecutive Tour wins, including The Open and PGA. He also won his first start in 2007 to make it seven consecutive Tour titles.

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Schedule change, caddie change for Casey at Match Play

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 4:12 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Paul Casey originally planned to skip the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, opting for two weeks off before the Masters.

Those plans changed when he removed the Arnold Palmer Invitational from his schedule and returned home to England last week to attend the funeral of a family friend. That adjustment also prompted a caddie change this week, with Scott Vail stepping in for the Englishman’s normal caddie, John McLaren.

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“We looked at tickets and it just didn't make sense for Johnny to fly back. We try and base our schedule around playing the best golf possible, but also having quality family time,” Casey said on Tuesday at Austin Country Club. “For Johnny to break up a nice three-week break with his family, there was no point to ruining that.”

This isn’t the first time Casey, who won the Valspar Championship two weeks ago, has needed a replacement caddie. At last year’s Travelers Championship, McLaren took a similar break and was replaced on the bag by Shannon Wallace. Although it’s not uncommon for caddies to take a week off, McLaren does have one stipulation.

“The only rule we have is that if Johnny is not going to work, he picks my caddie. So he picked the caddie,” said Casey, who is 20-12-1 in 12 starts at the Match Play and has advanced to the championship match twice.

Westchester Country Club hosted the 2015 KPMG Women's PGA Championship. (Getty) Getty Images

Westchester selected to host 2021 U.S. Women's Am

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 20, 2018, 3:20 pm

The USGA announced Tuesday that Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., has been selected to host the 2021 U.S. Women's Amateur. The tournament will be held Aug. 2-8, 2021.

The club's West Course first hosted the event in 1923, and it boasts a storied history of professional tournaments as well. The PGA Tour hosted the Westchester Classic, later known as the Buick Classic and eventually The Barclays, at Westchester from 1967-2007, including the first-ever FedExCup playoff event, won by Steve Stricker in 2007.

The course was also the site of the 2011 Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, won by Fred Couples, and the 2015 KPMG Women's PGA Championship, won by Inbee Park.

"The USGA is thrilled to bring the U.S. Women's Amateur to Westchester Country Club for the second time," Stuart Francis, USGA championship committee chairman, said in a release. "One of the USGA's three oldest championships, the Women's Amateur consistently identifies the world's top female players, and we are confident Westchester will provide the ultimate test for the championship's 121st playing."

First held in 1895, the Women's Amateur is open to players with a USGA handicap index not exceeding 5.4. Sophia Schubert won last year's event at San Diego Country Club, while this year's tournament will be held at The Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs.

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Stock Watch: Park rises again, under the radar

By Ryan LavnerMarch 20, 2018, 12:48 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Rory (+10%): The massive drives, the fist pumps, the unmistakable strut – McIlroy finally found the spark that he needed to play confident, aggressive golf. Bring on Augusta and his shot at history.

Tiger (+7%): It was another forgettable end to a final round, but let’s not lose sight of the big picture: Five events into his comeback, Woods has now carded 10 consecutive rounds of par or better – all on tough tracks – and can be viewed as a legitimate threat at the Masters. Remarkable, really.

Inbee Park (+5%): Fighting injuries and questioning whether she should retire, the Queen ‘Bee routed a top field in just her second start back. Stud.

Bryson (+3%): When The Machine operates properly, he’s one of the best ball-strikers in the world. Yes, he’s still painfully slow, but there’s no denying his talent – his runner-up against a star-studded field should help him tremendously.

Laura Davies (+2%): Fifty-four years old and nursing an Achilles injury, she turned back the clock with one of the coolest performances of the young season, on any tour. She’s still got tons of game.


Henrik Stenson (-1%): Maybe he’s just destined to go winless at Bay Hill. In the past four years, he’s had three excellent chances to win there and came away empty-handed each time.

Rickie (-2%): Hanging near the lead, Fowler closed his third round bogey-double, then shot 74 in the final round to drop out of the top 10. Sigh.  

P-Reed (-3%): His whiny protest to a rules official about a free drop – “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth” – got even juicier when the Ryder Cup partners were drawn in the same group at the Match Play. Get your popcorn ready.

Ted Potter Jr. (-5%): His impressive victory at Pebble Beach over DJ, Phil and J-Day is looking more and more like a fluke each week. He’s now missed four consecutive cuts.

Fan behavior (-7%): Another week, another player complaining about increasingly hostile spectators. The Tour has (frustratingly) remained quiet on the issue, but the tipping point will come when one of these dopes affects the outcome on the 72nd hole.