But bigger doesnt always equate to easier. Hitting the ball a country mile doesnt mean a player can contend each and every week. When the stakes are higher, the noose is tighter. And the bigger the advantage, the bigger the opportunity to choke it all away.
I didn't think it was ever going to get that close, said Leonard, who didnt make a birdie in the final round and had to make a 3-foot par putt on the final hole to avoid a playoff.
Leonard almost became a dubious part of history that week in Memphis, Tenn., as no player has ever blown a lead that big on the PGA TOUR with 18 holes to play.
Six strokes is the largest wasted advantage entering the final round. Five players have had the misfortune of doing that, most recently Sergio Garcia.
Garcia led by a half-dozen to start the final day of last years Wachovia Championship, but his closing 72 was good enough for only a playoff, which he lost to Vijay Singh.
This year, for the most part, those leading after Saturday have had very good Sundays.
In 20 stroke-play events on TOUR, only three times have players come from behind in the final round to win. Tiger Woods overcame a one-stroke deficit to win the Buick Invitational; Kirk Triplett closed in 63 to erase a six-stroke deficit in Tucson; and Brett Wetterich earned his first TOUR title by winning the EDS Byron Nelson Championship after beginning the final round one back.
This years field features only two top-20 players: Toms and Chris DiMarco. The event has an unenviable position on the TOUR schedule ' situated after two popular stops in Texas and before two popular stops leading up to the U.S. Open.
Next season, as a part of the new FedEx schedule, the tournament will move to the week preceding the U.S. Open.
As for this week, Leonard will try and become just the fourth repeat winner in this tournaments 48-year history. Dave Hill won in 1969-70; Lee Trevino in 1971-72; and Toms in 2003-04.
Toms has a spectacular record on the par-70, 7,244-yard TPC at Southwind course. And its no surprise that he leads the list of favorites.
Last years win in Memphis was a breakthrough for Leonard. It marked the first time since 1997 that he won more than one event in a single season (Bob Hope). Leonard is still in search of win No. 1 this year. The Dallas native has only two top-10s in '06, and none since the FBR Open in February. Leonard has had success here, however, as he has three top-10s in six starts to go along with last years triumph. This will be the first time since he played here from 1994-98 that he is in the field for a second consecutive year.
Every player has tournament sites where he plays particularly well. This is such a site for Estes. He has played this tournament 17 times, but it wasnt until recently that he found his groove at Southwind. Estes has four top-5s in his last seven starts here, including a victory in 2001. He also tied for eighth a year ago. His best finish this year is a runner-up in Houston.
DiMarco has to win again on the PGA TOUR. Right? Though he won in Abu Dhabi on the European Tour earlier this year, he hasnt won in the States since 2002. He doesnt have a top-10 in a stroke-play event on TOUR this season. He has, however, had some pretty good moments at this event. DiMarco tied for second in 2000, tied for 12th in 2001 and tied for ninth in his most recent appearance in 2003.
Jacobson snuck in a top-5 finish at this years Ford Championship, but up until last week that had pretty much been the extent of his 2006 success on TOUR. He then shot 62 in the second round of the Bank of America Colonial on his way to a tie for 17th The Swede has a tremendous record in just a handful of appearances at the FedEx. In three starts, he has finished T3, T5 and T6.