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March 12, 2003

Justin Leonard


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Justin Leonard. Thanks for coming by and spending a few minutes with us. You've seen the course; if we could get you to comment on the course here at Mirasol and your preparations for this week.

JUSTIN LEONARD: You know, the golf course in great shape. It's probably a little bit on the shorter side. There will be a lot of guys not hitting drivers as often as we do each week, but it's more of a position-type golf course.

The greens are pretty small and they are severe in some areas. If the wind blows, it will be hard to get the ball close to the hole. The rough in spots is pretty penal, but I think the main thing is going to be putting the ball in play off the tee with -- there will be a lot of 2-irons, a lot of 3-woods, and then trying to get the ball close from there.

JOHN BUSH: And your wife, I believe, is from this area. So just talk to us a little bit about the importance of that and also having a lost family here that I'm sure will be watching this week.

JUSTIN LEONARD: The tournament committee has really taken care of me on tickets this week, so that's a good thing.

But, yeah, I have a lot of her family out this week. And staying at her mother's house, which is 20 minutes away. It's nice. It's a great trip for us. My wife enjoys it because she is seeing a lot of her family; and living in Dallas, we don't get back here that often. It's great to be back.

I think this is my first Honda since about '95 or '96. It looks like I will be playing in this event for quite a while.

JOHN BUSH: Let's take some questions.

Q. Did you think that the pin positions on the West Coast got too severe -- one of the guys was telling me last week that they eased up a little bit at Doral. Do you think the rules people are deferring to what the players are saying?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I didn't play that much on the West Coast. So I didn't -- you know probably the most severe I saw were at Riviera. You know, I thought the pins were okay. I think that the -- with the equipment the way it is, players, as good as our fields are now from 1 to 156, I don't see a real problem going three from the edges, which is the new -- something new for the Tour.

The Masters Committee has always set pins three from the edges and the USGA has always set pins three from the edges. So, I don't see a problem with that on some golf courses. Others don't really lend themselves to that. Doral is probably one of those golf courses.

This week, you'll probably see a few pins that are three from the edge because the greens are so small. In some areas, if you want to use a section, you kind of have to get off closer to the edge. I don't have many complaints, though.

Q. How do you think the setup at THE PLAYERS Championship --

JUSTIN LEONARD: You know, the difference between three and four isn't -- it's a step. It's hard enough, you can't short-side yourself at Sawgrass, anyways. So whether it's three or four, you're going to be chipping it past the hole anyways. It just means your putt is going to be three feet longer.

So I think there are some places there where they will use three. We are not talking about totally new pin positions. We are just talking about, it's moved over close to a yard.

Q. Is this about the only defense the Tour can use besides the weather at this point?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't think so. I think that you can always get greens a little bit firmer. You can bring fairways in. I think there's more creative ways to make a golf course harder than just stick another tee back there 30 yards. That's certainly a way to do it, but I think there's more creative ways, to where you're still playing -- you feel like you're playing the same golf course.

You know, I would like to see whether it's the architects or the Tour -- I think some tees need to be lengthened, but I think you can also bring the fairways in a little bit and put a little bigger premium on driving the ball.

Q. Have you ever during a tournament gone back to your room at night and practiced putting?

JUSTIN LEONARD: No. Pretty much leave all of my clubs here at the golf course.

Q. Do you do a practice swing with an imaginary club or anything?

JUSTIN LEONARD: No. I live all of my imaginary clubs here, too.

Q. What about your friends?

JUSTIN LEONARD: No, they come home. They don't always stay with us, but they come home.

Q. (Inaudible.)

JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, think I'm a good putter. I don't think I'm the best out here, but I like the way I putt.

Q. What is it that the best putters do -- is it just one thing?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't think so. I think it's -- you know, you look at Brad Faxon's stroke versus Loren Roberts stroke and they go at it totally different. I think they are both great readers of greens and they putt with a lot of confidence all the time. That's something that I kind of fight sometimes is not having a whole lot of confidence, but I think we all go through bouts of that.

I don't think there's one thing that you have to do to become a great putter. If there was, we would all be great putters.

Q. Is it easier to read nowadays, the greens seem to be getting more consistent -- the greens here are different from what you had in California, but within a given region or a given time of year, are greens getting more consistent?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Probably so because the grass is so much more consistent. I mean, you know, I remember first coming out on TOUR and you would putt on greens that were definitely slower than others on the same golf course.

Now, you never run into that. I mean, all of the greens are the same speed. They are all -- one is just as firm as the next. I would say it has become easier to read the greens.

JOHN BUSH: Just talk about your season so far, Justin, and then also, your thoughts on the spring, and here we are in the middle of the Florida swing.

JUSTIN LEONARD: You know, I played okay in the desert at Phoenix and the Bob Hope. I'm not a huge West Coast player. I enjoy getting down to Florida, and really, the heart of my schedule is kind of March through August.

So, I wasn't -- I was neither disappointed nor satisfied with my West Coast. I made a couple of changes, playing a new ball and a new driver, and those are the kind of things that I want to get ironed out early in the year so that going into this time of the year and heading into THE PLAYERS Championship, I'm pretty comfortable.

So from that standpoint, it was a success. You know, I probably didn't really play enough to really know where my game is, but that was pretty much by design.

Q. Can you talk about how THE PLAYERS Championship has evolved since you've won?

JUSTIN LEONARD: It's probably changed a little bit. I think having won it, I kind of realize how special it is and it's a great place. There's nothing like it. The atmosphere, the golf course, the fans are incredible, and it's a very unique event.

Q. The fall-out, the interviews, can you talk about the distractions -- you had already won a major by that point, but how did you find the reaction after you won THE PLAYERS Championship similar?

JUSTIN LEONARD: It was similar, yeah, maybe just a little smaller in scope. As far as the notoriety that you get and the attention that you get from fans and the media, I would say it's very similar.

Q. (Inaudible.)

JUSTIN LEONARD: I was probably on an airplane.

Q. Did you see it on the highlights?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, I saw it all on the highlights.

I knew he had won the tournament, and then seeing him -- he chipped in about the last eight holes. Pretty incredible way to finish. To do that to win a golf tournament is special, and to win a PLAYERS Championship is that much more.

Q. (Inaudible.)

JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, obviously there were guys that have a better chance to win in a field in a given week. But, you know, the way the Tour is now, anybody has got a chance.

Q. Your new driver, is it a lighter shaft?


JOHN BUSH: Thanks again for coming in. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts....

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