Leonards Run Begins at Home
Leonard will play the next four weeks on the PGA Tour, beginning with this weeks Verizon Byron Nelson Classic and culminating with the Memorial Tournament.
From Lord Byrons tournament to Jack Nicklaus, Leonard is preparing himself for the U.S. Open, which, in turn, will go a long way to determining whether or not he makes this years Ryder Cup team.
The 101st U.S. Open will take place at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. Following his four-week stretch, Leonard will skip the FedEx St. Jude Classic, which directly precedes the Open.
Leonard is playing for the first time since the Shell Houston Open, where he tied for fourth two weeks ago.
The finish was Leonards first top-10 since the Mercedes Championships in January. In between Hawaii and Houston, the 28-year-old missed five cuts and failed to break the top-25 in four other starts.
However, it wasnt as bad as it looked on paper.
I saw some positive things through that, Leonard said on Tuesday. And even through the missed cuts, and the 73s and 74s, there were stretches in the rounds where I actually played some pretty good golf.
The root of Leonard's lackluster results was easy to trace. He spent the first five months of the season refining his swing.
Despite winning the 2000 Texas Open and collecting a trio of runner-up finishes, Leonard wasnt happy with his play a season ago. His felt his swing was faulty, unable to sustain the pressure of four full rounds.
Ive shortened my swing and Ive simplified my swing, said the 1997 British Open champion. Ive taken a lot of the excess movement out of my swing by a different position at address. And basically, Ive got a better understanding of what Im trying to do in the golf swing and how it is supposed to feel.
Leonard knew his swing overhaul would be painful in terms of his performance. In fact, he was more surprised than anyone when he finished inside the top-10 in his first two starts of the 2001 campaign.
I set myself up for a big fall with those first two events, he said. Now, I feel like Im playing at a more consistent level.
Im not working on eight different things anymore. The last couple of weeks Ive spent trying to move the ball up a little bit in my stance, and just checking my alignment. You know, thats as simple as it gets. And Ive gotten very comfortable with it.
Leonards simplistic approach will be tested mightily this week outside Dallas. Thirteen of the top 20 players in the world are in attendance this week, including Tiger Woods, who is making his first appearance since winning his fourth consecutive major and third straight overall event at the Masters Tournament.
In addition to the impressive field - which also includes Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh - Leonard will also have to battle a pair of courses that have caused him a bit of turmoil over the years.
Though hes a Dallas native and a former All-America at the University of Texas, Leonard has yet to crack the top-20 in seven prior Nelson starts.
Last year, he opened in 80 and missed the cut.
Leonard and the rest of the 156-man field will alternate play over the first two days on the TPC at Las Colinas and the Cottonwood Valley Course.
Both tracks are a par-70. Las Colinas, the host course, will be ultimate battlefield over the weekend.
The purse has climbed to $4.5 million this year, with $810,000 going to the winner ' thats $90K more than Jesper Parnevik collected in winning last year.
But Leonard isnt concerned with prize money.
With three major championships left on the calendar and the Ryder Cup looming in late September, Leonard has more than money on his mind.
Youll recall it was Leonard who sank the controversial 45-foot clinching birdie putt in the 1999 Ryder Cup. He currently stands in 22nd place on the 2001 points list.
And to get to where he wants to go, Leonard is relying on an old clich ' one step at a time.
Thursday is first. Thats my first priority, said Leonard. Sunday night, my priority is Fort Worth and what I do at the Colonial. Ill take the first challenge Ive got and put everything into that.
If I play poorly these next four weeks, you know, the majors are out, Ryder Cup is out. I never put all of my eggs in one basket.
But I just know Ive got a really good feeling about my game, and the tournaments that are coming up, and, you know, Im just really looking forward to this week and this whole summer.
That first domino will fall Thursday morning at 11:50am CT at Las Colinas.
Full field and tee times for the 2001 Verizon Byron Nelson Classic
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.
The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. 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. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.
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