Positive attitude helping Leonard in tough time

By Jason SobelOctober 9, 2012, 1:54 pm

There is a familiar face among the has-beens and never-weres bouncing along the PGA Tour monetary bubble. Once one of the game’s most complete players, Justin Leonard is now desperately clinging to life as a fully exempt Tour member, trying to reclaim those privileges for another year.

Hardly an hour of recent Ryder Cup coverage passed without video of Leonard's historic putt from the 1999 edition of the event. You know the one. A 45-footer on the 17th hole which led to abject mayhem and – after the dust had settled – a victory for the American side.

There is a tangible contrast between the man who raised his arms triumphantly that day in Brookline and the one who caught bits and pieces of the competition this year, eventually sitting down for the final 45 minutes. He reports that the U.S. loss was “hard to watch” because of his close friendship with captain Davis Love III and so many players on the team.

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While that contrast perseveres, there remains a parallel between the American struggles and those of Leonard in his own game.

Four years ago, he appeared very much still in the prime of his career, winning once and finishing 10th on the final money list. The next season saw a decline, but hardly a serious one, as he finished 30th in money. Then two years ago, he came in 87th and last year – thanks to a solo second-place finish at the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Classic – he made a huge leap to finish 91st.

With three events remaining on this year’s schedule, he finds himself in the same place, mired in the 131st position on the money list. And yet, ask Leonard and he maintains that he’s in a much different place than ever before.

“I’m not as stressed out as some people might think or some other people might be,” he contends. “I’m still in a good position. I’ve seen some signs that I’m on the right track.”

The fact that Leonard isn’t feeling the pressure of his situation speaks volumes about his mentality toward it, which he insists hasn’t formed based on his backup plan. As the ninth-ranked player on the career money list, he will be able to use exemptions for either being in the top-25 or top-50 – in effect, two get-out-of-jail-free cards if he doesn’t finish in the top 125 once again. Of course, such cards are often best played close to the vest, so Leonard is hoping to save them for another year – or never have to use them at all.

While drifting from a perennial top-10 player to one fighting for his card would leave most players sulking in their courtesy cars, Leonard actually enjoys the perspective that it’s given him.

“I’ve had a long career,” he says. “I’ve seen the ups and downs. The periods like this help me appreciate when I am playing well. I think that for a while earlier in my career, I took a few things for granted. I can honestly say that’s not true anymore. I’m thankful to be out here and have the chance that I’ve gotten. I’m certainly not satisfied with my game and where I am, but I’m enthusiastic about it because I feel like I’ve turned a corner. As much as I would have loved for this year to be different, I think there are some real things I can grab onto to help me make a few changes.”

Those changes have helped define a new attitude toward the game and his current predicament.

“I know that five or 10 years ago, I would not have wanted to be around myself the last few months knowing how seriously I take everything,” he adds. “Golf has always been a focal point, but my priorities have changed with my faith and my marriage and my kids. It’s certainly something I strive to be excellent at, but now I’m better suited to handle the situation.

“Sure, I’d love to come out and play great these next few weeks and not have to take the exemption, but if I have to take the exemption, it’s no big deal.”

It’s a refreshing attitude for a player whose game has fallen on such hard times. Leonard owns just three top-25 results in 23 starts so far this season. What’s gone wrong? Well, consider this: He ranks outside the top-100 in driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation, sand save percentage, putting average, total eagles, total birdies, par-3 birdie percentage, par-4 birdie percentage, par-5 birdie percentage and scoring average.

As Leonard is quick to point out, though, things have been heading in the right direction. In his last three starts, he finished T-5 at the Reno-Tahoe Open, T-19 at the Wyndham Championship and after a hot start last week in Las Vegas, a T-33 at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

While he’s obviously striking the ball and rolling it better, Leonard maintains that his approach has been the biggest key to unlocking some recent success.

“I’m not stressing about rounds or shots; I’m just coming out with a little more of a relaxed attitude,” he says. “It’s easy to say it. To actually apply it has been difficult, but it’s something that I’m getting the hang of. I can see that kind of attitude really helping in my game and my approach each week and each day.”

If it continues helping, don’t be surprised to see Leonard sneak inside the top 125 once again this year. That’s not the end goal, though. His name has been broached as a possibility for the next Ryder Cup captain, but Leonard thinks he can return to that stage as a player, competing alongside the country’s best golfers two years from now.

He certainly has the right attitude to get back there.

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Chamblee: Like Tiger in '13, Mickelson should've DQ'd self

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 2:46 pm

Two days after Brooks Koepka left Long Island with the U.S. Open trophy, the third-round antics of Phil Mickelson are still garnering plenty of discussion.

Mickelson became a lightning rod of opinion after he intentionally hit a moving ball on the 13th green Saturday at Shinnecock Hills, incurring a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification. In the aftermath, he explained that he made a conscious choice to take the penalty to avoid playing back and forth across the crispy putting surface, and he tied for 48th after a final-round 66.

Speaking Tuesday on "Morning Drive," Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee shared his view that Mickelson would have been well-served to disqualify himself ahead of the final round. He also compared it to Tiger Woods' incident at the 2013 Masters, when he took an incorrect drop and, like Mickelson, received a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

"I think Tiger, at least it's my opinion that his year would have been less distracting if he had done so," Chamblee said. "And I think the same of Phil Mickelson. If he had withdrawn from the championship and said, 'Look. This is a little sketchy. It didn't play out the way I thought. I've given it some thought and it's in the best interest of the championship that I withdraw.'"

Chamblee added that Mickelson's antics were "really distracting" on a day filled with drama as the USGA lost control of course conditions, noting that Mickelson and playing partner Andrew "Beef" Johnston were the only tee time where both players failed to break 80 despite the difficult conditions.

But having had time to review the situation and having surveyed a number of peers, Chamblee is as convinced as ever that Mickelson made a mistake by showing up for his final-round tee time.

"What Phil did, I haven't run into a single person that hasn't said he deserved to be disqualified," Chamblee said. "Under any interpretation, a serious breach - if gaining an advantage is not a serious breach, I don't know what is. And he clearly said he was gaining an advantage and doing it for strategic reasons."

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Norman to pose in ESPN's 'Body Issue'

By Grill Room TeamJune 19, 2018, 2:05 pm

Professional golfers have, from time to time, appeared in ESPN's "Body Issue," which features athletes strategically posed in the nude. The list includes: Belen Mozo, Carly Booth, Gary Player, Camilo Villegas, Sandra Gal, Christina Kim, Anna Grzebien, Suzann Pettersen and Sadena Parks.

And now, Greg Norman.

Modesty has never been an issue for Norman, who has an affinity for posing without a shirt (and sometimes without pants) on his Instagram account.

He joins a list of athletes, in this year's edition, ranging from professional wrestlers (Charlotte Flair) to Olympians (Adam Rippon) to WNBA stars (Sue Bird). Click here for a full list of the athletes to appear.


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DJ listed as betting favorite for The Open

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 2:00 pm

With the U.S. Open officially in the books, oddsmakers quickly turned their attention to the season's third major.

Minutes after Brooks Koepka holed the winning putt to successfully defend his title at Shinnecock Hills, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published its first set of odds for The Open. Jordan Spieth, who opened at 14/1, will defend his title as the tournament shifts to Carnoustie in Scotland for the first time since 2007, when Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff.

Joining Spieth at 14/1 is 2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy, but they're both listed behind world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Johnson, who was a runner-up at the 2011 Open at Royal St. George's and just finished third at the U.S. Open, opened as a 12/1 betting favorite. Koepka, now a two-time major winner, is listed at 20/1 alongside U.S. Open runner-up Tommy Fleetwood.

Here's a look at the first edition of odds, with The Open just five weeks away:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy

16/1: Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas

20/1: Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Phil Mickelson, Branden Grace, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Marc Leishman

50/1: Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick

80/1: Tony Finau, Zach Johnson, Thomas Pieters, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson, Shane Lowry

100/1: Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker

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Golf Channel, Loch Lomond Partner on Claret Jug Tour Ahead of 147TH Open

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJune 18, 2018, 9:35 pm

Award-Winning Independent Scotcb Whisky Sponsoring Tour to Select U.S. Cities; Will Include Special Tastings and Opportunities for Fans to Engage with Golf’s Most Storied Trophy

Golf Channel and Loch Lomond Group are partnering on a promotional tour with the Claret Jug – golf’s most iconic trophy, first awarded in 1873 to the winner of The Open – to select U.S. cities in advance of the 147TH Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Loch Lomond Whisky’s sponsorship of the tour further enhances the brand’s existing five-year partnership with the R&A as the official spirit of The Open, initially announced in February.

“We are proud to partner with Golf Channel to support this tour of golf’s most iconic trophy,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group. “Whisky and golf are two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, and following the news of our recent partnership with the R&A for The Open, being a part of the Claret Jug tour was a perfect fit for Loch Lomond Group to further showcase our commitment to the game.”

“The Loch Lomond Group could not be a more natural fit to sponsor the Claret Jug tour,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president of golf sponsorship, NBC Sports Group. “Much like the storied history that accompanies the Claret Jug, Loch Lomond’s Scottish roots trace back centuries ago, and their aspirations to align with golf’s most celebrated traditions will resonate with a broad range of consumers in addition to golf fans and whisky enthusiasts.”

The tour kicks off today in Austin, Texas, and will culminate on Wednesday, July 11 at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe one week prior to The Open. Those wishing to engage with the Claret Jug will have an opportunity at one of several tour stops being staged at Topgolf locations in select cities. The tour will feature a custom, authentic Scottish pub where consumers (of age) can sample Loch Lomond’s portfolio of whiskies in the spirit of golf’s original championship and the Claret Jug. The Claret Jug also will make special pop-up visits to select GolfNow course partners located within some of the designated tour markets.

(All Times Local)

Monday, June 18                    Austin, Texas              (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 19                    Houston                      (Topgolf, 5-8 p.m.)

Wednesday, June 20               Jacksonville, Fla.        (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Monday, June 25                    Orlando, Fla.               (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Wednesday, July 4                 Washington D.C.        (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Ashburn, Va.)

Monday, July 9                       Edison, N.J.                (Topgolf, Time TBA)

Wednesday, July 11               Lake Tahoe, Nev.       American Century Championship (On Course)

Fans interacting with the Claret Jug and Loch Lomond during the course of the tour are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag, #ClaretJug on social media, and tag @TheOpen and @LochLomondMalts on Twitter and Instagram.

NBC Sports Group is the exclusive U.S. television home of the 147TH Open from Carnoustie, with nearly 50 live hours of tournament coverage, Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22. The Claret Jug is presented each July to the winner of The Open, with the winner also being given the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year” until the following year’s event is staged. The Claret Jug is one of the most storied trophies in all of sports; first presented to the 1873 winner of The Open, Tom Kidd. Each year, the winner’s name is engraved on to the trophy, forever etched into the history of golf’s original championship. It is customary for the Champion Golfer of the Year to drink a favorite alcoholic beverage from the Claret Jug in celebration of the victory.