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Notes Leonard Lifts Heavy Burden

GEORGE, South Africa -- Justin Leonard won the first Presidents Cup match he ever played in 1996. He had to wait seven years for the next one.
His record in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup was 1-9-5 coming into these matches, and it began to weigh on him when he and Jim Furyk went from a 2-up lead to a shocking loss over the final three holes in the first round at Fancourt.
He finally got his redemption Friday.
'That was a huge burden,'' Leonard said after teaming with Chris DiMarco in the morning (better-ball) and Furyk in the afternoon (alternate shot) for two victories.
'I was pretty down yesterday,'' he said. 'To finally win a match, that freed me up for the afternoon.''
It wasn't easy.
Leonard and DiMarco were 3-up with four holes to play when Vijay Singh and Nick Price won two of the next three, setting the stage for more disappointment on the 18th.
DiMarco came through with a second shot of 60 feet on the par-5 closing hole, and a lag to within inches for birdie. When Singh failed to chip in for eagle, Leonard had his victory.
The afternoon match was far less stressful.
Leonard and Furyk won three straight holes on the front nine and picked up another point without having to play the final four holes against Singh and Mike Weir.
Phil Mickelson, coming off his worst season since he started playing a full schedule on the PGA Tour, has been making his share of putts this week, but continues to his struggle off the tee.
U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus still sent him out in the alternate-shot match Friday which is best-suited for guys who keep the ball in play.
Nicklaus was asked he had seen much of Mickelson this week.
'He's been hard to find,'' Nicklaus said as the room erupted in laughter.
'He'll do fine,'' Nicklaus added. 'He's so anxious to play, and play well. I've had Phil on teams before, and I've never seen him so enthused to want to play well.''
Mickelson certainly tried, holing a key birdie putt on the 17th to stay in the match. He and Chris DiMarco lost, 1-up, when Ernie Els holed an eagle chip off the green.
Mickelson is the only American who has not won a point.
The International team has five Australians, all of whom will be playing in the alternate-shot matches Saturday.
That means they will miss the Australia-England final in the World Cup Rugby, which starts at 11 AM locally, about 30 minutes before the matches begin.
South Africa was eliminated two weeks ago, but has an intense rivalry with Australia.
'With rugby and golf, I'm hugging them one day and booting them the next,'' captain Gary Player said.
Adam Scott jokingly said his future was on the line Saturday.
'They had better win or I'll not be going back to Europe,'' the young Aussie said. 'I can barely show my face in London. I'll be in the States.''
The two oldest players for the United States - 49-year-old Jay Haas and 47-year-old Fred Funk - have each sat out a session.
Nicklaus said Haas asked for the break Friday afternoon, the only day of two matches.
Also asking for a break was Davis Love III, who suffered a migraine earlier in the week and also has nagging back and neck problems.
'I told Jack that I'd prefer to sit out, but not if he wanted to keep me out there. I mean, it's only really half of a match,'' Love said, referring to the alternate-shot format.
Nicklaus decided to sit him. Love also sat out during one of the four team sessions at the Ryder Cup last year.
'As you know, Davis had a little probem with his neck earlier in the week and he just said, 'If you can rest me, I'd like to. If not, I'll play,''' Nicklaus said. 'And we just felt Davis wanted to rest, so let him rest.''
DIVOTS: Five International team members have played all three matches with different partners - Vijay Singh, Mike Weir, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark and K.J. Choi. No American has had more than two partners so far, while Tiger Woods and Charles Howell III are the only team to play three matches together. ... Ernie Els said he had intended to invite the Americans to his beach house for a barbecue Friday night, but that his house was too small. ``Maybe Sunday,'' he said with a grin. ... Nicklaus and International captain Gary Player skipped their press conference Friday night so they wouldn't be late to the gala dinner, attended by former President Bush and South African president Thabo Mbeki.
Related Links:
  • Presidents Cup Scoring
  • Full Coverage - Presidents Cup
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