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March 16, 2003

Justin Leonard


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Like to introduce the 2003 Honda Classic champion, Justin Leonard. Justin, thanks for joining us. 8th career victory, fourth win in the last 68 starts and fifth time you've shot 67 in the final round and winning on the PGA TOUR.

So that being said if we could get some opening comments from you. Congratulations.

JUSTIN LEONARD: Thank you very much. It was fun out there. I mean, Davis and I, I felt like we both played pretty well through 12 holes and then after that, we both started missing some shots and fortunately, I think I made a couple more putts than he did the last few holes and a couple key up-and-downs to where the last couple of holes didn't make much of a difference.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Nice to have a two-shot lead on 18, reminiscent of THE PLAYERS Championship when you won in '98?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, great to have a two-shot lead and to hit a good drive. Hoping to finish off a little better than that but again, I guess I'm not going to beat myself up too much.

Q. What do you think was your most important Shot of the Day and why?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Probably the chip shot that I hit on 9. Davis had hit, I don't know, it looked like a sand wedge but it was probably like a 5-iron in there to about a foot. We were even at that point and yeah, I had to hit a good chip to -- or get it up-and-down to keep from going two shots down.

So I hit a good chip to about a foot to keep it at one shot and then had a great opportunity at 10 but missed the putt. And then got a fortunate break at 11 hitting the pin and made birdie there. So that chip shot at 9 was probably it.

Q. Is there something special you'll attach to this win that separates it from your other victories?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I mean, they are all special. I don't get too -- I don't look too deep into it, certainly during the week or this soon after.

I think I'll take away from it that I can go out and shoot some low scores, because I enjoy playing on more difficult golf courses, but I can come into a week like this and have a chance.

Q. Talk about 16, the tee shot and then just how big the up-and-down was. Did your hand slip on that club at all?

JUSTIN LEONARD: No. I wish I could say that it did.

I kind of hit the same shot 16 and 18, both short irons. You know, probably just got a little bit ahead of myself and made a bad swing, caught it a little bit thin. The ball ended up in the hazard and there was some pine needles behind it and I could tell there was sand underneath, so I decided to just play it like a bunker shot.

Came out pretty good. Had about a 12-footer going up the hill. Fortunate to make that putt and then Davis missed his.

Q. On the 17th, there was a lot going on and it took a lot of time to play. How did that affect you as the leader?

JUSTIN LEONARD: You know, it's hard because I just hit a good tee shot and made a nice putt on 16. Hit a nice putt on 16, hit a good tee shot on 17. I just want to step up there and hit it. I have to sit there and wait for three or four minutes, however long it took to get a ruling and figure everything out. There are people on the fairway. There always seems to be some kind of chaos going on when I play well and have a chance to win or when I actually do win. Because all of a sudden it looked like a Shells match, there are people out in the fairway; it was something else.

You know, again, I probably missed the ball in the right spot second shot, but it was a little funny out there on 17.

Q. You talked about on 12, starting to miss some shots how much of that is just the nature of the pressure and you're coming down to the end to win?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I think that's a lot of it. Missed a shot at 14, hit it solid but pushed it a little bit, just trying to play safe, really.

Missed the shot at 16. You know miss-hit the second shot a little bit at 17 and then missed the shot at 18.

So I think combined from a long week, playing in the heat and those kind of things and having to make a lot of birdies, and then kind of realizing that it was going to come down to Davis and I, got in a little bit of a match-play situation.

I think if somebody would have posted a 25- or 26-under, I feel like we both probably would have kept making birdies. But kind of at that point, we realized it was just the two of us against each other and that's what it came down to.

Q. The course being a one-year deal and so many birdies made, you have the scoring record, how long do you think it's going to stand up being that it's moving to another course next year?

JUSTIN LEONARD: If what I hear is true about this Fazio course, it's going to stand up for at least three years or however long our contract is.

Yeah, it's going to be a different golf course next year. I've heard it's longer and it's more difficult, which I think is great.

It's fun to come play an event like this when you play well, but man, it's hard to shoot 5-under par for two days and you're packing it up. I think the facility here was wonderful and I know for me personally I'm going to be coming back because my wife and I have so much family here.

So I think next year's event will be a little bit different than this year's.

Q. Do you consider this year an aberration at all, just because of the one-time course?


Q. The improvements you've made in your game, do you feel like you have the gear to go out on a 7,500-yard course next year and win?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I do. I think that I'm doing the right things to get longer length off the tee and to hit the ball a little bit higher when I need to. You know, when it comes to a golf course like that, that's really long, I just have to be a little bit more on my game than some of the other guys, a player like Davis or some of the longer players. I've just got to do things a little bit better.

You know what I've kind of always had to do that. That's nothing new, whether it was a 7,000-yard golf course or 7,500 yards.

That's nothing new. I feel like that I've -- I know when I came out on TOUR, I was short, I mean much shorter than average and I feel like now I'm close to an average-length hitter out here. How much further can I go, I don't know. But I'm going to keep looking.

But I'm not going to stop playing the game the way I was brought up playing it.

Q. Amanda was saying how special this win was, the family seeing the win in person, how much more special does that make it for you this week?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Really, it's fun. It doesn't have a huge impact, begging for a lot of tickets early in the week and I owe this tournament a whole box of envelopes for all of the tickets we sent to will call.

It's fun, because a lot of Amanda's family have never been to a golf tournament before and they just kind of started following golf, if not before we were married, then since just over a year ago. There was some new people introduced to the PGA TOUR this week and I was responsible for a few of them.

I was thinking about this on the way in here. The only problem is that I set the bar pretty high. Now they are going to expect me to come down here and win every year. I don't know, I'll have to try to soften their expectations.

Q. What was it like around the house this week if they had just gotten used to golf, having somebody in the house that's close to the lead or in the lead?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, we stayed at Amanda's mom's, Nita, and she's been to several golf tournaments with us and traveling. It's funny because her friends will call that are not big golfers and they will call and ask her how I was playing and last night it was so funny to hear her. She had all the lingo down, and "Oh, Justin is at 18 and Davis is at 20, but one shot is nothing on this golf course".

I was like, "Who are you?" She sounded like one of you guys. (Laughter.)

It's funny. I think that that whole family are pretty fast learners.

Q. Yesterday you said that this is a good time of time of year to be playing well. Did any of your victories come before the players ever?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't think so. No, that's a pretty save bet.

Q. Is there a reason why you're not a fast starter maybe?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I'm not a huge fan of the West Coast. I don't feel like -- I enjoy playing the desert. Kapalua is a great place to play every year if you can. The soft poa annua greens on the coast, I'm not a huge fan of.

The West Coast, for me, is almost like trying to gauge where my game is, what I need to work on. If I play well, great. If I don't, I'm not going to be torn up because I've never played all that well on the West Coast.

Made a few changes and tried some drivers out last week and changed golf balls. Those are the kind of things that I want to have settled, if I can, before I get to Florida because this is where I feel like I can really compete and have a chance to win.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Will you quickly go over your score card. You started off with a birdie on the first hole.

JUSTIN LEONARD: 1, hit a pitching wedge to about 12 feet.

6, hit a 6-iron about 15 feet.

8, hit an 8-iron to about four feet.

9, hit a 4-wood second shot just short right and chipped it to about a foot.

11, hit a sand wedge out of the right rough that hit the pin, I'm not sure how fast it was going, but ended up a couple of feet.

15, hit a 3-iron second shot just short and left of the green. Chipped it to about three feet.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: 16, when you got up-and-down, 7-iron off the tee.


Q. How tough is it putting away a guy that you're really close with?

JUSTIN LEONARD: It's tough when he's kind of had my number. You know, certainly at the PGA, he played a great round on Sunday. But it seemed like if we're paired together Thursday and Friday, Davis plays really well. Since he won Pebble Beach, he's got some momentum going and, you know, it is, it's fun to play against him but it's pretty daunting, especially when it's a driver in the front bunker on No. 1.

I'm thinking, well, length is not a big advantage on this golf course and then walking up the green I go to Chris: "Chris, I think length is an advantage on this course."

It's fun but it's hard. Because he's a friend, does that make it easier or tougher, probably a little bit tougher. But at the same tie, you know, he's done it to me, so I don't feel too bad.

Q. Does he still owe you one?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, he's always going to owe me one.

Q. On the chip on 16, from that lie, how many other things could have happened from that lie, how difficult was it and when are were you thinking just get it up-and-down and get out or get it close?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I was trying to leave myself with a decent putt up the hill and I did.

But it's hard to know how the ball is going to come out because there was some pine needles behind it and what looked like sand underneath it, but you never know, it could have been rocks. So it was one of those where I felt like I was probably playing a percentage shot and trying to blast it and fortunate to make a nice putt there.

Q. You talked about yesterday just for Davis, it's a good time of the year for him to be playing good. How do you feel with that going forward as far as PLAYERS and Augusta as far as changing your swing and now with the win where you are with your game?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I'm excited. You know, last week, I didn't play well in L.A. and then I didn't play well at The Match Play tournament. So Amanda and I got home to Dallas on Friday and I took four days off and then Tuesday, I was at the golf course, which is probably the earliest I have ever started practicing on a week off. I worked my tail off for six days, and that's something that I haven't been doing because I've been playing pretty well. But when you're hitting it kind of lousy -- and worked with Butch a little bit at The Match Play and had some things to get comfortable with, I knew it would take a long week of work.

So came here, with a little bit of confidence because I felt like I was hitting it better and getting more used to a couple subtle things that I had gotten away from. And so, you know, it's nice to be playing well this time of year and looking forward to a week off and then getting ready for THE PLAYERS and then Augusta.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Justin, congratulations.

End of FastScripts....

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