June 26, 1999
HARRISON, NEW YORK
LEE PATTERSON: Maybe a couple comments about your round and heading into tomorrow; then we will open it up for questions.
JUSTIN LEONARD: It is my first year to play here, so a lot of it has been adjusting to the golf course. Tuesday, Wednesday when I played, the greens were still kind of soft and you know, I won't say slow, but they weren't by any means fast. So the last three days it has kind -- have been trying to prepare myself for playing the golf course firm more and faster and I did a real good job with that today.
Q. How did you play today and how did the course play?
JUSTIN LEONARD: The golf course -- I didn't think it played as hard as it did, say, Thursday afternoon because we didn't have a whole lot of wind today. The greens are continuing to dry out. They don't look very good, but they roll fine. But they certainly don't hold the ball very well.
Q. What adjustment, if any, have you made since starting practice rounds Tuesday through today?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Just knowing where I need to land the ball in the greens, trying keep it below the holes and those kind of things. I made a mistake today at 15; I hit it just off that green to a back pin and that is the worst place you can hit it. So I am still kind of learning about the course and the conditions, but just trying to make those kind of adjustments.
Q. What did you do well today?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I drove the ball fairly well, but I hit my irons very well today. I gave myself a lot of chances and was fortunate enough to make a few putts.
Q. Can you just talk about why you decided to come here? Is there some sort of story -- did somebody talk you into --
JUSTIN LEONARD: A little bit. The reason I haven't been here before is just strictly from scheduling. Because in May I played all the events in Texas and then a couple after that and it seemed like this is a week where I always need to take a break. This year, I was kind of 50/50. It wasn't a week that I had to have off. But in talking to some guys that have played here, they said this is a golf course that I would enjoy and should do well on if I am playing well.
Q. Anybody in particular really give you a good --
JUSTIN LEONARD: Harrison Frazar, I remember when he came back from this tournament last year, he told me that I needed to come play here. That stuck with me and certainly I mean, some other guys; Doug Martin who I play a lot with and Mike Colbert, they both have a lot of high praises for the course here.
Q. Considering the conditions of the course and your position, the leaderboard, what is it going to take to win here tomorrow?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't know. I am not -- I used to try to set a score and I was never very good at it. So I stopped doing that. I will just -- I think I will probably be somewhere between two to four shots back. Maybe not 4 because I got it to 6. I just forgot about that. But two to three shots back and it is certainly within range.
Q. Do you play aggressively here; how did you play this course?
JUSTIN LEONARD: You kind of have to pick your spots. I did a good job with that today. This golf course is more about not making mistakes and trying to take advantage of good shots or good breaks.
Q. 16 guys within 3 strokes of the lead. I don't know if it is going to hold up or not. Does it attribute to the depth of talent now?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think it has a lot to do with that and a lot to do with the golf course and the conditions that we are playing in. The rough, from what I understand, isn't severe as it has been in the past. But the greens are so dried out, it makes it very tricky to get a ball where you feel like you have got a good putt for birdie or whatever. Then when I miss a green the fun is just starting. I think the golf course is playing very difficult and it just -- the field hasn't really separated itself very much.
Q. Any difference between being one of the big names on the leaderboard or just one of the other guys?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I don't know where I fall in that. But I enjoy looking up there and seeing my name on the leaderboard. Walking up 18, I was on the board on the left and then I guess by the time I got finished they'd had taken me down. So I have to swing back over there and see what happened. (laughter). But it is fun and knowing that I have got a chance tomorrow to come out and if I play the way I did today; probably needs to be a little better, but then I have got a chance to win. I think that was my goal the start of the week as it is every other week and now that I am here, I need to go see what I can do with it tomorrow.
Q. Is that any different for the guys who people might walk in, look at the leaderboard and see I don't know him, as opposed to you, Justin Leonard?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, it is something that everybody out here is striving for. The level of comfort differs from player to player. When I first got out here, when I got on the leaderboard, I was -- whoosh, more times than not I probably made a bogey just thinking about it. But after going through it a few times and things like, that you get more and more comfortable.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the Ryder Cup and your pursuit; obviously you want to gain enough points but want to win this tournament, to win a tournament, but obviously it would elevate you seriously. In terms of where you stand in that bubble --
JUSTIN LEONARD: I am on the wrong side of that bubble situation.
Q. What is your motivation?
JUSTIN LEONARD: That is my motivation, to come out and play as much as I do this time of year. That is basically it. That is a big reason why I am here this week, or at least what got me here this week; knowing I need to play as many events as I can to give myself as many chances. It is tough because the difference between 10th place and 11th place is one shot, but yet in Ryder Cup it is, you know, 15 or 20 points. That, to me, makes all the difference in the world right now because of where -- where my position is. This year it has been a little frustrating for me because I have had so many 12th through 20th or 25th place finishes where I just so close to finishing the Top-10 or just a shot or two here or there it seems each week and so the same thing last week at the U.S. Open, so it has been a little frustrating from that standpoint. But yet I take away from that that, you know, my game is not very far off, a shot or two here or there, you know, it is nothing to go drive myself crazy about.
Q. Winning this tournament -- is maybe winning it to get those Ryder Cup points even more important than actually having that win under your belt or --
JUSTIN LEONARD: My motivation tomorrow is to come out and win a golf tournament, not Ryder Cup points. Now, if I was sitting in 20th or 25th place, you know, now you are talking something different. But I haven't won since March of last year and you know, it is something that like I said, it is the reason I came here this week and that was my goal was to get in position and now I just have to go see and what I can do with it.
Q. Being in position to win this having not won since last March, how is your confidence and your convertibility trying to --
JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't think I am going to have a problem. I have been in contention a couple of times earlier this year back in the first two or three tournaments and you know, it is something that I think will come back to me fairly easily.
Q. Last time you were in this area for a tournament was 1997 at Winged Foot. Does that bring back any memories being back in this area? You were in a similar situation tied for the lead going into Sunday there.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, you know, it is really two different things. I mean, the course and my career, then I was trying to win a second major in a row and trying to beat a really good friend of mine. Here I don't have any friends on that leaderboard, so -- That is a joke but -- you know, it is just trying to win golf tournaments and I don't -- being that was a year and a half ago, I have hit a lot of golf shots since then, so I am sure my mindset is probably a little different than it was then.
Q. In any similarities in actual golf courses? Obviously they are old-type courses.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, they are very difficult. Winged Foot is quite a bit longer, but you know, the approach shots here are equally as difficult because of the certain spots you have to hit to on the greens. It is the same kind of golf course from that standpoint that you need to put the ball in play; try to get in the right spot on the greens and play conservatively the majority of the time until you can taking chance.
Q. Talk about how you are playing well, what adjustments you have made; any problems?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Not too many big problems with my game. I felt fairly comfortable week-in and week-out. I feel like I have been putting better the last month or so. But I haven't tried to change anything because I don't think too much has been wrong. It is just -- the difference between winning or contending to win and finishing 15th or 20th place is not that much out here. I have just been just on the wrong side of that fine line; hopefully this is a chance for me to get back on the side I want to be on.
Q. Were you surprised at all that you are in this position never having seen this course? You have always been good at adapting.
JUSTIN LEONARD: I felt like I have been fairly good. The majors that we play are golf courses that I haven't seen for the most part, except for just a few. I am going to go play Medinah next week while I am in Chicago for the PGA to take a little preview. I played Tuesday with the guys that I usually play with, that know my game; I know their game and that helps a lot. If I would have come out here and played by myself, I would -- I don't think I would be sitting here right now, so I think going around with those guys. Mike Colbert, Bob Tway, Doug Martin really helped me in picking their game about the golf course and things like that. So I think it also helped me after the U.S. Open to come in here and learn something new. I was here on Tuesday and pretty much getting focused on what I was trying to do here this week and maybe the drag-out or let down or whatever catch phrase you want to call it after the U.S. Open, I didn't experience that.
Q. How about the whole experience of New York, not only the course but just staying here for the week, how do you -- do you like that or how do you feel about it?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, I mean, this is a great part of the country. There are some wonderful golf courses here in this area and I wish I could go around and play a few of them. It is a fun area. I like going into the city. I haven't done that this week. But this is the part of the country that I enjoy and I am just sorry the Knicks couldn't win a couple more games.
Q. Let's say you are two shots off pace after the end of today. And you are a as Brian said, a quote unquote bigger named guy who has won a major and couple of guys who are 2 ahead of you have not won a tournament or won one tournament; would you be considered a favorite in your mind going into tomorrow?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Oh, yeah, I mean -- I think it wouldn't matter if -- who was at the, you know, two shots ahead of me. I still feel like my chances are as good as anybody's. The thing is -- and like you said, it is going to be pretty bunched up unless somebody goes crazy on the back 9, so there is a lot of guys that are going to be thinking about winning and playing a little more aggressively. I think it is going to provide for pretty interesting day.
LEE PATTERSON: Real quick go over those birdies for us. Two.
JUSTIN LEONARD: 2, I hit a pitching wedge about 15 feet past the hole, made it. 4, I hit a 7-iron about 40 feet short of the hole, made it. 5, I hit a 3-wood second shot on the green about 40 feet, 2-putted. 7, I didn't hit my tee shot far enough. Hit my second shot over the green, pitched to about six feet, missed it. 10, I drove it just short and left of the front bunker, chipped it to about ten feet, made it. 13, hit pitching wedge about eight feet and 18 I hit a 3-wood in the front right bunker and blast today about eight feet.
End of FastScripts....