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January 10, 2009

Justin Leonard


DOUG MILNE: Justin Leonard, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. Great third round, eight birdies and no bogeys in the third round of the Mercedes-Benz championship. You've obviously got it going; just a few comments on the round as you head into tomorrow.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Played solid. Probably as well as I did yesterday, but I feel like I made a few more putts. You know, with the wind switching around a little bit, the golf course played completely different.
But I remember there was -- I don't remember what year it was, but four or five years ago, the wind blew like this all week, but a lot harder. So I had that experience to kind of draw upon and just played well and gave myself a lot of chances.

Q. You're obviously playing very well, and the guy in front of you just seems to be playing out of his mind. I think it's a six-shot gap going into tomorrow. Do you go out there and just play your game?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, yeah. I was looking at the leaderboards on the back nine, but I never saw, you know, Geoff's section, so I didn't know where he was. And then when I got to 18, I saw he was at 19-under. So it was a little deflating, to say the least.
Hat's off to him. He's obviously playing great. But I'm just going to go out and try and continue getting the rust off, like I have the last couple of days, and, you know, try and end the week on a good note.

Q. And you were talking about the wind shifted yesterday afternoon. When the Konas come in, obviously the course is built to play with the trades, what do you have to do, hit completely different clubs, or how do you go about it?
JUSTIN LEONARD: A little bit. I mean, probably the biggest difference is 1, 17, and 18, on the clubs that you hit into those three holes, because they are -- one is 520, and it's normally downwind. So when it plays into the wind, it's a very difficult hole. The wind died down a little bit the last few holes, so certainly 17 and 18, didn't play as difficult as they normally do with a strong Kona wind.
You know, there's probably a few more opportunities. The holes that are normally into the wind where you're hitting a driver and trying to keep a 6-, 7-, or 8-iron down. Now you're hitting sand wedge into those holes. I feel like the par 5s played a little bit easier. Especially when it's a pretty calm wind like it was today.

Q. Can you give us an example, on 1 today, what you hit yesterday and what you hit today?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yesterday I hit either a 7- or 8-iron, and today a 3-iron.

Q. Did you hit driver off the tee yesterday?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yes. I hit driver down to the bottom of the hill yesterday, and today, I wasn't able to get it downhill, and hit a 3-iron in.

Q. Your lines change at all? 7, for example, I'd be curious about that.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, 7, you don't go as far to the right. 5, your line changes. 4, I just hit a 3-wood today. Normally that's a driver hole for me.
9, hit a 3-wood through the fairway.
So 10, I normally hit driver there, and today a 4-wood down there where my driver normally ends up. So yeah, it does change quite a bit.
13 is a hole where I saw -- as I'm playing up 10, I kind of look down and saw a couple of guys trying to hit irons off the tee to keep it up top, and I just hit a driver down there on the upslope and had 70 yards.

Q. Which hole was that?
JUSTIN LEONARD: On 13. Because I remember doing that, whatever year that was, where we had the same wind.
So, yeah, things change quite a bit.

Q. If you had a moderate wind like this, is it easier scoring in Kona or trade?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think Kona, because 1, you've got a lot of green down there to hit at. 3 becomes a much easier hole. 4 becomes an easier hole. 5 is much more reachable; I hit a 3-iron into it today, where tradewinds, I can pretty rarely get there.

Q. But if it's howling, would it be the other way around?
JUSTIN LEONARD: If it's really blowing, yeah, I mean, if we had the same strength of wind that we had on Thursday, it's hard to say. It might just be pretty even.

Q. History of success and Top-10 finishes here; any reason this course fits your game?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think coming over here and playing in the wind, I feel like I'm a good wind player. I hit the ball fairly low, and I'm creative. Balancing balls into greens, it kind of reminds me of my junior golf days. You don't do it a whole lot here, but there are some shots where you have to.
You know, I'm also pretty fresh. Usually a little rusty, but I come over here and enjoy the weather, and always hope that the rust comes off fairly quickly, and it has a few times.

Q. Bouncing balls on the green; you could win a British Open.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah. (Smiling).

Q. Were you bouncing balls over the green with your 3-wood because you couldn't get there?
JUSTIN LEONARD: (Laughter) yes. With an 8-iron because I couldn't put enough spin on it to stop it on the green. So pretty much every club was bouncing on to the green.

Q. What rust is there?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, maybe a few of the guys that played overseas late in the year, but I played -- Chevron was the first time I played since the Texas Open in the first week of October. So I practiced for a week or so, and played that week. Then put the clubs up for another couple of weeks and went skiing.
The first day, I probably got out of it what I should have, shooting 1-over and not having much feel, and my distance control wasn't very good, which is very important to play well on this golf course.
But you know, I kind of got all that taken care of, and I've played pretty nicely the last couple of days.

Q. Are you playing next week?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I'm not playing next week. I'll go home and then I'll play the Hope and Phoenix.

Q. Does the early start tomorrow change anything, preparation today, or anything tomorrow?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No. I guess the weather is going to be pretty dicey, so I'm glad we are starting early, that way we have a great chance to get the round in.

Q. What do you like best about Geoff Ogilvy's game?
JUSTIN LEONARD: He's pretty unflappable. You look at the way he played at the World Golf Championships, event at Doral last year, I think he had the lead the entire weekend. I'm not sure about Thursday, Friday, but I remember he had the lead the whole weekend. He just kept playing his game and not worried about who is chasing him and what's going on.
You know, he doesn't really have any real weaknesses. So he's just unflappable, really solid.

Q. Are you rooting for some weather tomorrow to help your chance trying to catch Geoff?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No, no. I gave up on wishing or rooting for weather a few years ago (laughter), because it really didn't help. The days I said, Oh, man, it would be great if it would blow today, then it wouldn't blow.
I'll go out with my rain suit and umbrella and be ready for anything.
DOUG MILNE: If you wouldn't mind running us through your birdies quickly.
JUSTIN LEONARD: 5, I hit a 3-iron pin-high just a couple of yards off the green and 2-putted.
6, I had 50 yards or something and hit it to eight feet and made that.
7, hit a 5-iron to about 15 feet.
9, hit a 3-wood second shot on the green to about 25 feet and 2-putted.
12, hit an 8-iron to about five feet.
13, hit a sand wedge to seven feet.
14, drove it up pin-high and chipped to about six feet.
Then 18, I had like 75 yards for my third shot and hit it five feet.

Q. You had to have bounced that one in there.
JUSTIN LEONARD: I did not bounce that one in there. I flew it in there only because it's into the wind. Normally that's a hole you have to bounce it in. I'm like, here we go, going away from my junior golf days, so it worked out all right. Only when necessary.
DOUG MILNE: Good luck tomorrow.

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