Leaney Returns Under the Spotlight

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VERSAILLES, France (AP) -- Few people remember the man who comes second. But U.S. Open runner-up Stephen Leaney has found his world has changed overnight.
 
'My U.S. Open experience was career-changing,'' the Australian said Wednesday at the French National course where he lines up this week in the $2.88 million French Open.
 
'I had been trying to get to America for years. I knew I had a minimum of seven events to make enough money to make my card. To have done it in four is more than I expected.''
 
The relaxed 34-year-old from Perth, previously a four-time European Tour winner, has suddenly found himself in the spotlight.
 
'The last week has been hectic,'' Leaney said. 'I have done about 20 interviews.
 
'The hardest thing this week is to forget what I've done and get back on the horse again.''
 
Leaney shot a solid final-round 72 at Olympia Fields, near Chicago, to finish three shots adrift of winner Jim Furyk, who also had a 72 Sunday.
 
'My thoughts change toward the major championships now I know can win one,'' Leaney said.
 
Together with his wife, Tracey, he is starting to redirect his career toward the PGA Tour. After competing at the British Open over the Royal Saint George's course from July 17-20, Leaney will take a break.
 
'We will go to America to try and buy a house to set up for next year,'' Leaney said. 'Then I will stay there to play the Buick, the International, the PGA and the NEC.''
 
Leaney hopes to play the German Masters and the Dunhill Cup in Europe and will then return home to Perth.
 
'My wife is due to give birth in October so it looks unlikely I'll play the World Match Play. Then next year I'll go straight to America.''
 
By that time Leaney hopes to have signed up a regular caddie.
 
'I have had four caddies in the past five weeks,'' Leaney said. 'It's surprising when you're ranked 23 in the world and you can't find a caddie. But it's hard for the guys here to commit to a full season in the States next year.''
 
Bernhard Langer's bagman Peter Coleman will be looping for Leaney this week over the par-72, 7,105-yard Albatross course at the French National. The Australian sees similarities with Olympia Fields.
 
'It's really bouncy and if the greens firm up it will be a great test. At the U.S. Open I putted so well. That was the key.''
 
Putting badly has been Jose Maria Olazabal's problem this year.
 
The two-time Masters champion, who also plays here in an event he won in 2001, has been plagued by putting difficulties.
 
'The last few weeks have been awful,'' Olazabal admitted. 'At the U.S. Open I played well tee-to-green but putted horribly. Once I take my game to the level where I think I can play and compete I think I have the demeanor and mental strength to do well under pressure. I truly believe if I play my game I have a chance to win some majors.''
 
England's Justin Rose, who tied fifth at the U.S. Open, Thomas Bjorn, Trevor Immelman, Ian Poulter, and Adam Scott also are playing in the tournament.
 
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