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August 20, 1997

Justin Leonard


LEE PATTERSON: Maybe just any questions you have for Mr. Leonard this afternoon.

Q. How did you play this morning?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Not very well. Nice question. (LAUGHTER)

Q. What do you think of Firestone?

JUSTIN LEONARD: It is great. I thought it was in great shape last year and I think it is even better this year.

Q. Characteristics --

JUSTIN LEONARD: I think somebody added some length to a couple of tees which -- okay, but -- yeah, it is definitely in great shape. I didn't want it to be any longer, but it is.

Q. Justin, how do you think your Ryder Cup has shaped up?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I like the team. I think everybody that is on it deserves to be there. I feel like we are all playing well and, you know, it is a good group. I think that we will all get along and we should have a lot of good chemistry.

Q. Some have said that they think it is the best American team since 1981. In 1981 there was Nicklaus, Watson, Trevino, Miller, Kite.

JUSTIN LEONARD: I think that, like I said, I don't think there is, you know, a player on the team that you'd say, "ehhh," everybody is playing with. Everybody is tough. I think that everybody has that instinct to want to get in there in that atmosphere and do well. And, you know, I think all the players have a lot of courage and, you know, they just -- we have got a lot of fighters on the team.

Q. How shocking is it, if at all, to you or some of the other American players that maybe Nick Faldo may not be chosen. It is not definite. Just rumblings, but how shocking is it that? Is it even being discussed?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I haven't heard it discussed. I have been worrying about making the team and what our team looked like, you know, I don't really think about their team until once it is settled.

Q. What is your playing schedule up until going into the Ryder Cup?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I believe I am going to play the Canadian Open and then the CVS Charity Classic, Pleasant Valley, and then probably take the week before off.

Q. How do you go about recovering from the last day of the PGA, or do you need any recovery time from something like that from a near miss like that?

JUSTIN LEONARD: No. On a golf course like that, as difficult as it was, playing well, you know, being near the lead in the last group on Sunday, you know, mentally it is draining. And, Davis and I had dinner last night and he was tired. He has obviously had a little more celebration than I did, so he was probably a bit weary from that. But, you know, mentally it is just grinding on every shot, never being able to let up. And on a golf course that difficult, you know, I noticed Monday and yesterday being fatigued and mentally more than physically and, you know, today was a nice relaxing day and I joked. I mean, I didn't play that well, but I had a good time, and, you know, this is just a day to stay loose and relaxed and, you know, this afternoon I will practice some and, you know, start getting ready for tomorrow.

Q. How high is the fatigue level among the rest of the players in the field? Can you sense that it is pretty high?

JUSTIN LEONARD: No, I am not really sure. I mean, I think a lot of it depends on how the guys played last week.

Q. I was going to ask you: Now that the American side has been decided, where is the side's strength and if they have any advantages over the Europeans, where do they lie, where do those advantages lie?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't know. I can't really answer that. I know a few European players and their games, but I mean, I would say that, you know, we have got a lot of -- just a lot of good guys and I don't know if there is, you know, if it is necessarily a really long team, or a really accurate team. I think all the guys really know how to score well and, you know, there is -- I think we have got a lot of players on the team, guys that, you know, are able to maneuver their way around a golf course, you know, efficiently.

Q. Justin, last week, I don't remember if it was Saturday or Sunday, Davis said that you and he were the last of the front-line players using persimmon drivers. It was his opinion that when you went to the metal driver that you became much more of a threat because it increased your length. You mentioned length here at Firestone. Can you talk about when you went from the persimmon to the metal wood and whether you have noticed that it has made you more competitive on longer courses like Firestone?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't know if it has made me more competitive on longer courses. I think it has made me more competitive on all courses. I have got -- It was amazing to me when I first started using it and I guess it was late April or first part of May.

Q. Was that this year?


Q. Because you were still using the wood driver at Valhalla last year?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I was using it up until May this year. How much confidence I had in the driver off the bat, I wasn't worried about hitting on some little tight par 4 where you can just stick a little 3-wood or 1-iron down there. I enjoy hitting it and, you know, I wouldn't say people say well how much further do you think. You are not going to see my driving distance go up by 12 or 15 yards. But, when I need to, I think that is how far -- how much further I can hit it. But, obviously, I don't need or use that every hole. But, I think, you know, I have really noticed in the golf courses that we play since I have switched, you know, like the Byron Nelson, Colonial, and Memphis and Kemper, I have noticed the distance where I used to be hitting from compared to now with the metal driver what I am hitting from into the greens and it has made a big difference. I mean, it has made a difference on all the golf courses I have played.

Q. Has being longer off the tee changed your mental approach in other parts of your game, too? Has it given you more confidence to fire at pins because you know you are a little further out and can use a little less club?

JUSTIN LEONARD: No. I pretty much did that when I felt comfortable. It doesn't matter if I am hitting a 3-iron or 9-iron. If I like the yardage and the way it looks, then I am going to go up a hole. It hasn't really changed that. I think it has taken a lot of pressure off of some other parts of my game. I am able to get it up around some par 5s now, whereas, before, it was just too far and I just hit a 5- or 6-iron down and lay-up. Now, I am I am able to get it around and on some Par 5s, so it has been a lot of fun playing these golf courses. Obviously, today wasn't a great day to gauge how far I was hitting it because the golf course is soft. It has been a lot of fun playing these golf courses I have played in the past and hitting from a few different sprinkler heads.

Q. How many combinations did you try before you found one that worked? Did you try a lot of different metals?

JUSTIN LEONARD: It was the week after Hilton Head and I had collected about somewhere around 20 drivers and this one was actually not one of the first that I got. I didn't get this driver until Wednesday at the turn of the Pro Am in the Houston Open and I played with it the next day, so, you know, something that I knew. I liked the head. It was just a matter of getting the right shaft in.

Q. Along those lines with drivers you have got in the bag now, and the way you have played this year, how much better prepared do you feel coming into this tournament than you did a year ago when you had your wood driver and you had just won your first tournament?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, you know, drivers helped me, but, you know, I feel like I am a better player, not just because the driver, but because of my experiences. I have learned more about myself in the last year. I think that -- I think I am more consistent as far as the way I hit the ball day-to-day and, you know, I feel like my overall game has improved in the last year. And, that is a big goal of mine every year to see some improvement and try to get better. And, so that is something that I am going to be striving for for a long time.

Q. You mentioned overall improvement. Are you a kind of guy that looks at the statistics to that and see if there is tangible evidence that that improvement is there? Do you pay attention to stats much?

JUSTIN LEONARD: No. I know if I am getting better the way I am thinking on the golf course. The statistics, I am not going to sit here and knock them because there is some that really make sense and are good to look at. But, I don't look at them too much. Right now I don't think I am in the top 10 in any statistical category on, you know, the little driving accuracy, whatever - I don't think I am in the top 10 in any of those. I mean, I feel like I am having a pretty good year. I feel like I am playing better than I was two years ago and when I finished I won all-around statistics, so....

Q. What stats do mean something to you? You said a couple of it makes sense.

JUSTIN LEONARD: I am not going to go there. I think the putting stats are pretty accurate. I think the scoring is pretty accurate and the others are fine. I don't want to go there.

Q. I think I checked after three rounds at Winged Foot you said you didn't think there was much difference in your driving distance. But, I think after three rounds at Winged Foot your distance at Winged Foot was 10 yards longer than your season average. Is that a lot?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, the golf course was maybe somewhat firm. I mean, it is just -- you can't -- that is why you can't -- it is hard to compare, you know, because the course conditions change year to year. If I had played Winged Foot a year ago in the same conditions it was, then it would be accurate. I felt good hitting the ball at Winged Foot. I wouldn't be surprised if I was hitting it, you know, 5, 10, 8, whatever, 15 yards further than I would have six months ago. But, I don't -- you know, it is just hard to say because some weeks we play, the golf courses are fast, like The Colonial, and you are hitting downwind on the par 5 and if you don't hit it 300 yards, you haven't -- you didn't touch it. And, you know, other weeks like here, you bust one and it is 260. So it is hard to, you know, it is hard to compare one week against an average. But, I think I was definitely hitting the ball farther and I feel like I have been hitting it farther the last, whatever, four months it has been. Like you said, probably in the neighborhood of 10 yards.

Q. Did you and Davis discuss the PGA much?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Not really. We discussed more what he did Sunday night, Monday, those little stories.

Q. How much anticipation is there among the players about the Championship Series that might come here in 1999?

LEE PATTERSON: I couldn't hear.

Q. The World Championship Series that might come here in 1999, do you know anything about it?

JUSTIN LEONARD: It is two years away. I mean, it is hard enough to plan, you know, two months in advance. You know, I have read a little bit about it. And, again, it is hard to say because I don't know all the ins and outs, you know, who is eligible, things like that. Obviously, this is a great golf course and any tournament you have here is going to be a good one just because of the venue.

Q. The copper bracelet that you are wearing, that seems to be like the big thing on the PGA TOUR now. What does it do for you guys? Why is it a rage throughout the Tour? You see a number of guys wearing these. Now they are selling it in shops.

JUSTIN LEONARD: I wouldn't call it a rage. That is something like bell bottoms. (LAUGHTER) These things have been around for a while. I have had -- I pulled some ligaments in my right hand before. A few years ago, occasionally I could feel tenderness and I thought, hey, it just turns your skin green. I have got -- it is not like one more tan line is going to hurt me. So I put it on almost three years ago and, you know, I don't know if it is just -- I think it works or if it actually works, but I am not taking it off. (LAUGHTER)

Q. Have you read at all about the magnets that some other guys wearing?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Who wears it?

Q. Irabu, the pitcher for the Yankees, he wears magnets.

JUSTIN LEONARD: He hadn't had such a great start. (LAUGHTER) Maybe he needs to get a copper bracelet. Oh, great. I have read about the magnets. Now the Yankees will be coming after me.

Q. Are you a Rangers' fan?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah. It is all right. Sorry Yankees. I have got a real good friend who works there, so I will probably get a call. I have read about the magnets. I think the magnets are more for healing and something about dilation and then it creates circulation which helps the healing. And mine, I don't think I necessarily need healing. I think I just -- I don't know. I like the - isn't that a nice shade right there? So -- God, I am in so much trouble. (LAUGHTER) Just can't help it.

Q. Down even a more frivolous road, I have been getting some funny responses from some of the players, about the worst golf ball you'd be playing with as a kid maybe, a Crow Flight or --

JUSTIN LEONARD: I am -- I can't -- I am going to get in more trouble. I mean, the old, you know, the ones that were, you know, if I cleaned them off, they were the color of my shirt that I found down in the creek, you know, two days after the last flood, those were the worst ones I played with. It didn't matter what brand. It did not matter.

LEE PATTERSON: Anything else?

Q. Have you noticed much difference this year in your recognition level with the fans?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Wow - in the last month. You know, a little bit during the year and after the Kemper. But, I mean, the last month, I mean, how many times have you called me in on a Tuesday or Wednesday before a tournament -- the last four weeks. (laughs) So, you know, it is fun. I mean, it definitely, you know, things change and before I was able to kind of go out do my own thing and I was done and, you know, it takes a little bit of adjustment for me, okay, now I need to allow for 30 minutes in here and 30 minutes this and that. And, so, but it is definitely worth it, you know, to come out and play well and you know, if you ever hear me complain about coming in here or you know, signing autographs or anything, just hit me, please.

Q. I just wondered because last couple of months we have been watching the way players deal with it. Does the heightened level of attention that you are dealing with right now give you appreciation for what a guy like Nicklaus or Tiger Woods go through in terms of getting ready for a tournament?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I think so, a little bit. I think that like today people have become very aggressive in seeking autographs and things like that. And, you know, sometimes that is hard to deal with. And, so I am sure those guys that you mentioned have a few stories to tell. But, like I said, you know, I try to do what I feel is right and at the same time, you know, I have got to give myself time to get ready for the tournament. But, hopefully, you know, there is a middle ground in there where I can be happy with what I am doing and make, you know, the most amount of people happy. Obviously you can't please everybody, so I can't try to do that. But, you know, as long as I feel I am doing the right thing, I think I will be okay.

Q. Has there been a major change in your life or your lifestyle?

JUSTIN LEONARD: No, I wouldn't -- no. I get more mail in the last few weeks and phone calls and things like that. But, I don't think it has changed the way I go about doing things. And, I think that if it did, my friends and family would -- I don't know, they might like a change. (laughs) But, I don't think that they would let that happen.

Q. Are you going to play in the World Match Play Championships?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Do you know what week that is?

Q. What is it, early October maybe.

JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't know. I am not sure. I haven't quite set my schedule.

Q. Do you remember maybe in here, year before the British Open, did you ever hear a fan confuse you with somebody else before you were widely known, as widely known as you are?

JUSTIN LEONARD: No. Not really. Just "who is that?" (laughter). All right.



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