Justin Wins Without Long Ball
Leonard is a supremely talented golfer who has only this one little problem ' he just doesnt conk the ball out there far enough to seriously contend week-in and week-out. Hes a wonderful putter and a sure iron player. But when it comes to tee-shot launches, he normally has to take a back seat while the big boys have their fun.
Of course, last week was the Bob Hope Chrysler Championship. The courses at the Hope are fairly short by tour standards. And, the greens are superb. It was an ideal formula for J. Leonard.
Now, Leonard has occasionally done very well in big championships. But they werent exhibitions for the big bashers where anyone could just line up and let it fly. There was the British Open at Troon ' which Justin won. There was the British Open at Carnoustie, where he went into a playoff before losing to Paul Lawrie. There was the Players Championship in 1998 ' which he won. And there was the PGA Championship last year, where Leonard got into a playoff before losing to Vijay Singh.
In each instance, the tournaments required careful iron play more than howitzers off the tee. As Tom Kite, never a long hitter, used to say, As long as everyone is forced to hit driver, make the course as long as you want to. Ill hit drivers with any of em.
Meaning that, Kite could play with anyone when it came to having to hit the clubs straight. Where Kite missed out was on courses where everyone else could hit 3-wood or 2-iron while he was having to hit the driver. If there isnt enough rough to narrow in the fairways, Kite knew he was facing long odds.
So, too, is Leonard. But there are three or four tournaments a year where length is very little advantage. And putting is a great advantage. Hel-lo, Hope tourney!
This year, sure enough, there stands Justin at 149th on the list of driving distance after just seven rounds. But he stands second in putting, and you can just about forget any lapses with the driver. Which stat is more important? You decide.
Leonard made a big switch is the off-season, giving up his Ben Hogan clubs which he had used since turning pro 10 years ago for a set of Nikes. Its still too early to tell what that means ' after all, Leonard was pretty darn successful with the old sticks. But he adjusted to the Nikes fairly quickly, winning with them in just his second outing after missing the cut at San Diego. A secret for you, though ' Hogans old club designer, Tom Stites, is now the big dog at Nike. See the semblance?
The list of Bob Hope winners has been pretty impressive, despite the fact that the courses are short and amateurs are playing four of the five rounds. Just since 98, the list has included Fred Couples, David Duval, Jesper Parnevik, Phil Mickelson twice and Mike Weir, with Joe Durant thrown in during a particularly hot spring in 2001. The last two Hope winners, incidentally, were also the last two winners at the Masters ' Weir and Mickelson.
And now, Leonard, perchance?
I would say it's coincidence, said a smiling Justin. But look at the two players who won this tournament the previous two years (Weir and Mickelson.) Two pretty good players that probably set up pretty well for Augusta.
I love playing Augusta. I'm looking very much forward to it. I certainly hope to keep that stream alive. I may write that in my yardage book to give me a little boost of confidence.
Confidence was something he couldnt have had much off coming into the Hope, since at Leonards only other outing this year ' the Buick Invitational ' he missed the cut after shooting 74 the first day. But he blames that on what was for him a long off-season (two months), plus the equipment change.
But I felt like as the week went on (at the Hope), my practice sessions got a little better, said Justin. It didn't necessarily transfer over to the golf course, but I just seemed to hit the ball more solidly as the week went on.
You know, I enjoy coming to this event. I enjoy playing with the amateurs, enjoy the golf courses, the weather. And so, I felt like after my practice sessions on Friday and Saturday during the fog delays where I hit balls for about two hours maybe only being able to see it for about 60 yards had something to do with it.
Of course, maybe the Bob Hope courses had something to do with it, too. But then, so much is new with the old Justin. Maybe there will be new results, as well.
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Romo turns in even in PGA Tour debut
After stumbling out of the gates, Tony Romo has found his footing in his PGA Tour debut.
Playing in the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship on a sponsor exemption, Romo shot an even-par 36 for his opening nine holes in the Dominican Republic. The former NFL quarterback bogeyed his first two holes, but steadied the ship with three birdies from Nos. 4-8 while playing alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.
The early highlight of the round came at the par-4 fifth hole, where Romo drained a putt from across the green for his second straight birdie:
Romo has played as an amateur partner in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and has played individually in U.S. Open local qualifiers and mini-tour events as an amateur. But this marks his first attempt to gauge his game against the best players in the world who are not in Austin for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Romo, who plays to a plus-0.3 handicap, said earlier in the week that he expected some jitters once it came time to put a tee in the ground.
"You'll be nervous on Thursday on the first tee. Just going to be," Romo said. "I've got to get through the first three or four holes. If I can handle the nerves on the first three or four holes, I think that I'll settle in and hopefully just play the way I've been playing."
Click here to watch live first-round action on Golf Channel.
Kim's missing clubs show up at sporting goods store
More than a month after they were lost on an American Airlines flight, the clubs I.K. Kim used to win last year's Ricoh Women's British Open turned up on the sale rack of a California sporting goods store.
Kim's clubs became lost in late January when she flew from Miami to San Diego, with the airline suggesting she simply rent a new set. A few weeks later, Kim shot a "What's in the bag" television segment which according to a Golfweek report caught the eye of three good samaritans in the San Diego area.
The three men recognized Kim's clubs for sale at a local Play It Again Sports, with the major winner's tools listed at $60 each. The store even had Kim's tour bag, complete with her LPGA player badge. Kim filmed the reunion with her bag - containing wedges and a few hybrids, minus the head covers - at the Carlsbad police station:
What’s in my bag now?! They were selling at Play it again ... only $60 each in San Diego. Jack, Jeff, Paul watched my video with @alisonwhitaker1 in Singapore and found my remaining clubs and brought it back to me @lpga_tour this week at Aviara!! Btw... Where is the head covers? They might sell separately?Never mind.
Kim was back in southern California this week for the Kia Classic, where she'll begin play Thursday morning at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad.
WGC-Dell Match Play: Scoring, live stream, standings
New dad Garcia removes shoes, wins match
AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the day’s most explosive matches, Sergio Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to defeat Shubhankar Sharma, 1 up, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
The duo halved just nine holes on Day 1 at Austin Country Club, with Garcia going from 2 up through four holes to 1 down with five holes to play.
But the Spaniard rallied with five birdies over his final eight holes and pushed his record to 20-17-1 in the Match Play. He also gave himself his best chance to advance out of pool play since the format began in 2015.
The victory continued what has already been a memorable week for Garcia, whose wife, Angela, gave birth to the couple’s first child last Wednesday.
“I already feel like I’m a winner after what happened on Wednesday,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it's something that we're so, so happy and proud of and enjoying it as much as possible.”
The highlight of Garcia’s round on Wednesday came at the 12th hole when he took a drop on a cart path. After considering his options, he removed his shoes and hit his approach from 212 yards to 29 feet for a two-putt birdie to halve the hole.
“I have spikes. So if I don't take my shoes off, I'm going to slip. It's not the kind of shot that you want to slip,” Garcia said. “I had tried it a couple of times on practice swings and I was already slipping a little bit. So I thought I would just take my shoes off, try to get a little bit in front of the hole and it came out great.”