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September 20, 2008

Justin Leonard


KELLY ELBIN: United States Ryder Cup Team member Justin Leonard joining us, ladies and gentlemen, Saturday of the 37th Ryder Cup. This morning in foursomes play, Justin and Hunter Mahan halved their match with Miguel Angel Jiménez and Graeme McDowell.
Justin, please, comments on the match, certainly an exciting match that came down to the final hole.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, both teams played pretty well. I made a couple mistakes at 3 and 7. Hunter played great all day long, and it was fun making those putts at 15, 16 and 17 to help get a halve. I would have loved to have made the putt at 18, but it was a pretty hard-earned half-point.
KELLY ELBIN: Talk a little bit about perhaps some of the struggles early on. You mentioned you all were 2-down through 7, then maybe what helped to turn things around to actually be 1-up going into 18.
JUSTIN LEONARD: I hit a loose shot on 3, the par-3. And then 7, we were right of the green and I was trying to kind of run it uphill for my third shot. Didn't get it up the hill, and then missed about a six-footer for par.
You know, after that hole we really played very solidly. I had the ball -- either looking at some good birdie putts or in the right position around the greens, and being 2-down and getting it back to halve the match, we felt good about that.

Q. Can you talk about sitting? Did you know you were sitting, and are you surprised you're sitting out this afternoon?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I'm not surprised I'm sitting. I told Zinger, you know, I felt like I had some more in the tank. I wasn't sure how much. And I think he wants me to be ready for tomorrow.
I know Phil really wanted to play this afternoon, and Hunter, as well as he's playing, wanted to play, as well. That's his decision, and I'm going to use this rest to my advantage.

Q. From a player's perspective, what was it like -- on 7 green, it looked like yours was the only match ahead on the back nine at that point. What was it like watching such wide shifts in the scores?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, it was. Yeah, the match behind us, I know they were 4-up at one point, and then you really -- you certainly wouldn't think those guys would lose that match. I think that's one of the reasons Phil wanted to go back out, because that's going to leave a bad taste in his mouth, and he wants to go back out and do it again to help our team.

Q. Two questions: One, what is it about match play and about this where the switches are so much greater than they are on a weekly TOUR event; and two, if you have your choice, would you prefer to go out early in the morning or one of the last couple singles matches tomorrow afternoon?
JUSTIN LEONARD: You know, it's interesting, being here at the Ryder Cup, we've got four matches going on the first two days, or each session. And you watch the leaderboard and you try not to get too emotionally involved in the other matches, which is pretty easy to do. You pretty much stay in your own match.
But certainly when you look at the leaderboard and see that guys are 3- or 4-up, it's a boost. And then when you see them, the matches become tighter, wanting those guys to pull it out, and it's fun to watch. It's more fun when there's more red on the board, but it is fun to watch.
You can draw some inspiration either way. I felt like as their match got tight, that made our half-point even that much more important.
And as far as singles tomorrow, we'll talk about it this afternoon and tonight. I don't really have a preference.

Q. Are you watching the board more here than you would at a normal event?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No, you're really not.

Q. Tomorrow, who goes out when, is it a team decision; Azinger decides where everybody goes and that's it?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No, it's a team decision, figuring out where guys are more comfortable playing. Obviously you need some -- we've got a lot of guys playing very well, which makes it a little more difficult.
We've got 12 guys that are all warriors, and I think every point or half-point is very important. Every spot is important. I feel like there aren't any bad decisions as far as where to put guys tomorrow.

Q. Going into tomorrow, looks like it's going to be very close, is it frustrating that as well as you guys are playing, when you get down to 18, you are getting halves; you are leaving some points out there?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, Phil and Anthony, I think they won a match yesterday 2-up, if I'm correct. But it is, it's hard losing 18 and giving away the half-point. But you can choose to look at it that way; or you can say, well, we were 2-down through seven holes and got a half point out of it. Every halve is crucial. When you get that full point, it certainly helps, but we're not going to think too much about 18, we're just going to pull for these guys to win this afternoon and get ready for tomorrow.

Q. You alluded to this a few minutes ago when you mentioned the importance of your half point. As you watched Mickelson's match starting to slip away; Perry and Furyk lost a couple of holes; and Stewart and Chad were not having a good day. Did that make your match, maybe a tense match, even more tense, a hard match even harder?
JUSTIN LEONARD: It's pretty hard to make a tense match in a Ryder Cup more tense (laughter). I'm not sure how you accomplish that.
You know, it was great. Both teams are playing great, and just creating birdies there the last few holes was exciting. But certainly seeing the leaderboard and watching match 3 and match 4 get tighter and one going against us; I guess if there's a way to make a match in the Ryder Cup a little more tense, then that's the way to do it (smiling).

Q. Psychologically are you more driven by being, say, a point behind than you are a point ahead? What drives you harder?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't think you can think too much about the points, where everything else. I think the biggest thing is to just get into your match if you're playing, and if you're not playing get ready for the next match that you are playing.
I think it's obviously going to be a close event at the end of today. We would love to add a little bit to our lead if that's possible. But you know, the important thing is that guys go out, play their own games, stay focused on what they're doing, and as Zinger says, play great.
Just do what they normally do, if that's possible during a Ryder Cup. And then tomorrow, I mean, there's 12 points available tomorrow. So you can have some huge swings in momentum either way.
So it'll be important for the guys, for all of us tonight, to get ready to make that transition to playing singles tomorrow.

Q. Is there something about the golf course or is it something about the competition where the front nine often this Ryder Cup, people seem to get up by three or up by four, and then somewhere after the 10th or 11th hole it starts to slip away; is that the golf course or is that the nature of the competition?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think that's the Ryder Cup. I don't think the golf course has a whole lot to do with it because it is match play. If it were a stroke-play event you could probably attribute it to the golf course. But with match play it doesn't matter how long the hole is; it doesn't matter where the pin is; it's your team against the other team.
You know, I think that they would like to see those momentum changes going our way and putting some red up on the leaderboard.

Q. Following up on that, there's been almost no discussion about the golf course since play has begun. You've been around three times now. What are the holes that you see around the golf course that really merit some kind of discussion?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I'm going to heap some praise on the course superintendent and his staff. I know they're coming out of a fairly hot August, which is very difficult on bentgrass greens. And from where the greens were on Tuesday when we got here to how they're putting now has been a monumental change. They've done a great job getting them up to speed.
Fortunately the weather has not been too hot and the sun is not out today, so they'll be in good shape from here on out. But the superintendents have done a great job.
You know, as far as holes that deserve some discussion, I mean, the 16th green, 16 is a very difficult hole with an extremely shallow green. That hole, I don't know if playing it at 510 yards, if that green is really built for a 3 or 4-iron. Now, Boo Weekley hit an 8-iron in there yesterday and I'm sure J.B. hit a wedge, so I may be the only one thinking this way. But the 16th green is a little shallow for my 3-iron.

Q. I wanted to get a comment about Nick Faldo's pairings. They've been a little erratic or unexpected. I wonder if you have any insight into what he's doing, or has it had any effect on you guys?
JUSTIN LEONARD: We really haven't tried to figure out what they're doing for the pairings. We're just putting our pairings out there, see how they match up, and just having everybody ready to play. I'm sure there are some good reasons why he's done what he's done. I haven't really thought much about it or studied it, and as a team we haven't really spent any time discussing what we think he'll do or whatnot. So we really haven't given it that much thought.

Q. Did you chance to talk to Kenny after this match, and what was his demeanor like last night and also this morning and this afternoon, especially given the circumstances with him being here?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I saw Kenny this morning at 7:00 a.m. guys with just getting ready to play. There's not a whole lot of chitchat. Guys are doing what they need to do, stretching, eating, getting ready to play. I saw him after his match, he was eating lunch. Again, he's in the mode of getting ready to play and just said, "great playing, go out there and keep it up."
He's having a ball. He's really enjoying the crowds. I mean, I've heard him say a number of times, as he's said all year, that this Ryder Cup here in Louisville is the most important thing in his career. He's embracing that; he's not shying away from that in any way. He knows it's a huge event for him, and he's playing some great golf.
So it was great to see him win this morning, and I would love to see him go out and continue that this afternoon.

Q. Is this event as fun or more fun than you remember, and also, is there one thing that you've learned about Hunter this week that maybe you didn't know before?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I'm having more fun this week than I did in '97 or '99, and maybe that's because I'm playing better.
I think it's because I haven't been here in nine years. Golf is no longer the most important thing in my life. I've got a family, I've got my faith, and I'm enjoying this.
I felt pressure this week, but not the knee-shaking, heart-stopping pressure that I felt in '97 and '99 because this was the singular, most important thing in my life. That's no longer the case, and I've been able to enjoy this week more because of all that.
And then what was the second one?

Q. One thing you learned about Hunter this week that you didn't know before.
JUSTIN LEONARD: I knew going in that Hunter was a great player and that he deserved to be on this stage. But I guess the talent level that he has, it's pretty amazing. To hit the ball the way he does, and I mean, he's rolled the ball beautifully this week.
And a fun guy to be around. It's fun to watch him loosen up. He's a pretty quiet guy, but I've been around him a lot this week, and it's been fun getting to know him a little better and to see him loosen up and his personality start to come out.
I think this is the kind of event for Hunter and the way he's playing that this is really going to springboard him into some great things.
KELLY ELBIN: Justin Leonard, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts

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