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A Texas Three-Step

2006 Valero Texas OpenNice little Texas golf storyline down in San Antonio this week.
Colt Knost and Justin Leonard.
And Randy Smith.
Knost is the current U.S. Amateur champion who turned pro this week at the Valero Texas Open which meant, among other things, he was surrendering exemption/invitations into next years Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. He learned to play golf near Dallas.
Leonard is the former U.S. Amateur champion, who missed his first six cuts this year but fired a 5-under 65 Thursday and is currently chasing 36-hole Valero Texas Open leader Jesper Parnevik. He learned to play golf near Dallas.
Smith is a perennial fixture on all those top 100 golf teachers lists. He used to coach Leonard before Leonard switched to Butch Harmon. Now Leonard is back with Smith.
Knost, who has only been playing competitive golf for six years, got turned down by Smith when Knost first asked Smith to help him with his game.
Not the smartest thing Ive ever done, Smith told me yesterday.
This was after Smith had followed Knost for all 18 holes up and down the hills of LaCantera. 71 is about the worst score Colt could have shot, Smith said. He hit just one bad drive and paid for it with a double bogey. And he had three three putts.
Knosts technical strengths? Exceptional ball striker, Smith said.
The reason Leonard is playing well again? Actually hes been hitting it pretty well for two and a half months, Smith said. He just wasnt putting that well.
Heres the thing on these coaching switches: When Leonard left Smith to work with Harmon a couple of years ago it didnt mean that Smith suddenly didnt know what he was talking about. Similarly, when Phil Mickelson famously left Rick Smith (no relation to Randy) for Harmon earlier this year, it didnt suddenly mean that Rick Smith still didnt have one of the best pair of teaching eyes in the game. Nor did Leonards move back to Smith around the time of Bay Hill in March cast a shadow over Harmon.
You have to take what people tell you and make it your own, Leonard said. You know, you can tell me all day long I need to play more aggressively, and, you know, do this and do that in order to play well. But until I really get it into my thick head and it becomes my own thats when I think I see progress.
Knost, for his part, is a little thicker around the waist than Leonard. But dont let that fool you. He has an athletic swing that is already making longtime TOUR observers think about the same gift that John Daly has for staying on balance despite a wide swing arc.
When I asked Smith if he saw any similarities between Leonard and Knost, he didnt hesitate. Absolutely no intimidation factor, Smith said. Thats the way Justin was when he came out on TOUR.
Heading into the weekend in Texas, Leonard sits alone in fifth place, six back of leader Parnevik. And as for Knost? Well, he birdied three of his last eight holes to make the cut on the number.
Nice little Texas storyline, indeed.
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