June 3, 1999
LEE PATTERSON: Very good day. Maybe just a couple thoughts about your round then we'll open it up for questions.
JUSTIN LEONARD: I played pretty solid, bogeyed the second hole after I pulled my tee shot and then came back and birdied the third hole. Then just played pretty solid the rest of the day. Picked up a birdie at 7. I got it up-and-down just over the green. And then had a good putt at it at 9. Then I missed a good putt at 10. Then I missed a good putt at 11. Then I missed a good putt at 12. But I felt like I was hitting good putts. 13, I birdied. 14, I had a good putt at it and missed it. Birdied 15. Hit it up by the green at two and got it up-and-down. 16, I made about a 35-footer for birdie, then made a good up-and-down, nice putt save at 18.
LEE PATTERSON: How far was that putt? ?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Probably, yeah, 12 feet.
LEE PATTERSON: Any questions?
Q. Justin, after you -- tell us about 2, you pulled your tee. Where was your ball?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I hit it left in the rough and couldn't really go for the green. So my ball was sitting down and you got some trees that kind of overhang. Just chipped it down the fairway and hit a pitching wedge for my third shot to about 10 feet and missed the putt.
Q. Justin, a lot of people have wondered this week how this course would play - relatively dry and with the tighter fairways. How did it play differently from the way it's played for you in the past?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I didn't really notice too much difference. You know, 13 I guess with the bunkers on the left side is a little different. You don't really -- I guess when it gets down -- with the wind, guys will be hitting it over the corner. A day like today you're playing to the right of those bunkers. Same thing with 17, you kind of want to be on the left side of the fairway anyway. So I didn't think the golf course played all that much differently than it has in the last couple years.
Q. Are the fairways running or not?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Fairways are running pretty good, yeah. I would say they're -- for this course, the way that we've played it, you know, they're on the firm side.
Q. You see a comparison, do you like it better this way or when it was soft all the time? You score better then?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think I'm going to score better when it's firmer. You know, you have balls that can run through the fairways into the rough, like I did on 18. And it makes it a little bit more of a position type golf course and puts a little more importance on keeping the ball in play.
Q. Justin, do you feel like when the course is playing firm and fast, are you better, in a better position to win under these conditions than when it's just pitch and putt?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah. I think that because it tightens the fairways even more so, and, you know, it makes -- you really have to be specific on your tee shots because balls can run through fairways.
Q. How did you play 13?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Hit a driver up the right side, hit a 7-iron about 10 feet and knocked it in.
Q. A lot of pain for some of the others, you did a number on it. Henke got an 8 on it when he was 3-under.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, you know, I guess if you get stuck in those bunkers, you can have some problems. It may be -- it will put a few more balls in the right rough because you're playing away from those. But, you know, I've never really tried to take it over to that corner anyway, so I'm basically playing the same way I have in the past.
Q. So you hit the driver and 7 in previous years, something like that?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, something like that.
Q. Is this your last tournament before the Open?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Uh-huh.
Q. Are you using this to prepare for it? How does it fit in in preparation?
JUSTIN LEONARD: You know, I don't... You know, I'm here playing this golf course this week. You know, I went and played Pinehurst Monday, so I've got a good idea of what to expect. But, you know, I'm kind of saving my Open preparation for next week. Now, you know, winning this tournament, who ever does, that's great preparation for the U.S. Open. You know, from a confidence standpoint and obviously you're doing a lot of things well. So I want to do well here, but I'm not thinking too much about the U.S. Open yet.
Q. Does that course at Pinehurst fit your game or not?
JUSTIN LEONARD: You know, I'd like to think that it does. You have to be very specific with where you land the ball on the greens, on your approach shots. You know, then around the greens you have a lot of decisions to make as far as what kind of clubs you're going to use and what shots you're going to play.
Q. Are you pleased with your season so far?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No, I've been a little disappointed. It seems like I got off to a great start in the first month of the year, and then, you know, it seems every week I've finished like 12th through 25th; and, you know, which is fine and all, but to be that close and not get in the top tens and pick up Ryder Cup points and those kind of things, you know, I've had some disappointing Sunday nights. And, you know, so it's been a little frustrating, but we're only -- I'm half way through my year as far as the number of tournaments I play, just about. And with three majors left, I feel like the meat of the season is still coming up.
Q. Didn't you used to have a pattern of getting off slowly and then building as your season progressed?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, my first couple years on Tour I really didn't start to play well until, you know, some time around April. And last year I got off to a decent start. This year I got off to a good start. So, you know, it's something that I've worked on the last couple years and have been able to improve on that.
Q. You've improved that but then you've got these other -- you've delayed, sort of, the -- not collapse, but you've got to the point now if you play your best golf early in the season, now you're having some problems late spring into the summer. Is that accurate or inaccurate?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No, I don't think that's accurate at all. I feel like I'm playing every bit as good now as I was in the first part of the year. The difference from finishing 20th and finishing 5th or 8th is usually a couple shots. I don't think a couple shots is a difference between playing good and what -- I don't know what was your word?
Q. Well, I was having --
JUSTIN LEONARD: Collapse was one or something. (Laughter.) I don't think two shots over a period of 72 holes is that much to be, you know, it's no reason to go change my game.
Q. This doesn't concern you in other words?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No, it doesn't concern me. I feel like I'm playing well, I just haven't gotten the results that I feel like I need to get.
Q. Justin, two questions. If you can remember, first, what the conditions were like when you won the Amateur here. And, second, do the conditions that you have out here now, you said it's not that much of a difference from previous years, but do the conditions now open up this tournament to a different type of player on the leaderboard?
JUSTIN LEONARD: The conditions during the Amateur, very firm early in the week, then we got rains on Thursday and Friday. I guess Friday we were washed out. And that really softened up the golf course. By the time we got to the finals on Monday, it was firming up again. As far as the golf course, I don't think, you know, I think the guys who are playing well and who enjoy this golf course are going to play it well under any conditions, so I don't know if it opens up or takes away some advantage that some players might have. But, you know, some of the guys that maybe don't hit it quite as far, like myself, maybe enjoy it a little more when it is a little firmer.
Q. You played with Ben Crenshaw today. He had a difficult day. Did you talk about the Ryder Cup at all?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No. I mean I'm sure he thinks about it enough. You know, and he knows that I want to be on the team and I'm doing what I can, and, you know, I wanted to see him play well as much as anybody. And so I figured, you know, the less he thinks about Ryder Cup and those kind of things, the better chance he's got of doing well.
Q. Justin, after 2, what happened at 3 there for your birdie?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I hit a 3-wood and then pitching wedge to about 12 feet, made that for birdie.
LEE PATTERSON: Why don't we get all the other ones. 7?
JUSTIN LEONARD: 7, I hit it just left of the green. And 2, chipped it to about 6 feet and made that.
LEE PATTERSON: 13, 15.
JUSTIN LEONARD: 15, I hit a one-iron for my second shot, just left of the green and got that up-and-down.
Q. How far was it?
JUSTIN LEONARD: A foot. 16, I hit a 5-iron about 35 feet.
Q. You mentioned three or four miss, miss, miss in the middle of the round. How legitimate were those birdie putts? How long were they?
JUSTIN LEONARD: 9 was maybe 18 feet. 10 was about 12 feet. 11 was about 8 feet. And 12 was about 15 feet.
Q. And 14?
JUSTIN LEONARD: 14 was about 18 feet.
Q. Was there a pattern through all of those, anything certain?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Let's see, I missed one right, one right, left, left, and then left. But, you know, they weren't really all high or all low. Two of them, I think, caught the hole. So I felt like I hit good putts, maybe just a little bit of a misread. Speed was maybe a little too strong or not enough. But, you know, I wasn't off by too much.
Q. These one or two strokes that you mentioned earlier, is there any aspect of your game that you think is causing that?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No, not particularly. I mean, you know, it's different every day and every week. There's weeks when I putt pretty well and there's weeks when I don't. You know, last week I putted well two days and I putted poorly the other two. So, you know, it's not, you know, two shots over, again, two shots over 72 holes is not a whole lot.
Q. So it doesn't really concern you?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, it doesn't concern me to where I'm going to go change my game, okay? Or I'm going to go practice for eight hours next week. Is it frustrating at times? Yes. It's kept me out of the top ten probably six or seven times, so that's frustrating. Does that concern me? Yes. But not to the point where I'm going to go change drivers and wedges and fire my caddie. You know, everything's there, I just haven't been able to put it all together.
LEE PATTERSON: In perspective, Jerry, last year, No. 126 on the winning list was 2 shots for the whole year. 2 shots is what he's talking about.
JUSTIN LEONARD: It makes a big difference, but, you know, it's a pretty small number.
LEE PATTERSON: It's a small number.
Q. In essence, if you focused on that, you could create more problems for yourself than you have?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I think so. That's why I'm not going to go out to dinner with you. (Laughter.)
Q. That's not why we don't!
JUSTIN LEONARD: But, you know, you're right. If you start worrying about things like that, it can drive you nuts. And, you know, I just try to go out and prepare myself. If I feel like last week that I didn't putt well a couple days, then I'm going to spend a little more time on that this week. But, you know, again, I'm not going to try to make any big changes. I feel like my game is pretty close to playing well, and, you know, just hopefully continue to have a good week here and go home and get ready for the U.S. Open. I try to keep it as simple as possible, and not put too many -- not get too complex in what I'm thinking or analyzing or things like that.
Q. Do you prepare differently for the Open then say the Masters or British Open or PGA?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No, it's pretty similar. This next week I'll work on a few more specific shots around the greens and putting the ball up slow, things like that, that I would practice for, say, British Open but not for previous U.S. Opens because there's usually so much rough around the greens.
LEE PATTERSON: Anything else? Thank you.
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