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May 27, 1998
WES SEELEY: We are joined by the reigning British Open champion, among other things, Justin Leonard. You're in the middle of a busy stretch of golf. How is it going for you?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Pretty good. Playing at home the last two weeks, which is great, but it's also kind of nice to get away and got some great memories here from 1992 playing the U.S. Amateur. Next week I'm looking forward to defending at the Kemper, so, you know, this is a fun time of year for me.
Q. Can you talk a little bit -- a lot has changed for you since last year when you were in this tournament. When you came here, you were one of a bunch of good young players and now you're one of the top young players in the world. You've won three times. How does that differ from coming in here this year?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I don't think -- I don't think I'm very different. Obviously things around me have changed. My expectations I have for myself maybe are a little higher, but they were pretty high before. I think my confidence has definitely increased. You know, I think I have a better idea of where my game should and can be, but I really don't think that I've really changed too much.
Q. Do you think you feel more -- when you talk about confidence, do you think you feel more at ease at those times when your game is not as sharp as it should be?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No. I've never felt at ease when my game wasn't very good, and I hope I never start to. You know, that's when I work the hardest is when I'm trying to find something or get my game in good shape.
Q. I'm talking in terms of knowing you can still get something out of it scorewise.
JUSTIN LEONARD: It still doesn't put me at ease.
Q. Just wondered, comments on the course in the practice rounds and what shape do you think it's in and how confident do you feel, comfortable?
JUSTIN LEONARD: The course is in great shape. Hopefully -- it doesn't look like we're going to ruin any shoes this week for the first time in a couple of years. But the weather is great, the golf course is dry compared to the last couple years, and, you know, everything, the rough is thick, the greens are fast. I mean, it's everything you could want.
Q. What in particular about this course makes it play difficult and what do you like about it and do you like it?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I think the second shots really set up the golf course. There's pretty much -- there's room off most of the tees to drive it, so I don't think there's a big premium on driving the ball straight here. But I think it's a second-shot golf course. You know, if you miss greens, you're going to have tough chip shots, because it's the area of the greens and around the greens the bunkers are very deep, very close to the green. It makes chipping and putting, you know, it puts a real premium on those two things.
Q. Is that something that you particularly like in a golf course, you know, that type of philosophy?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, you know, I think driving the way I drive the ball, I look more forward to a tighter golf course. But here, you know, you have to be in the fairway in order to hit some of these small greens. So, you know, it's a golf course that I look forward to playing every year.
Q. What's wrong with your finger?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Nothing. I've taped this finger for like five years.
Q. Oh, okay.
JUSTIN LEONARD: It hurts if I don't. Callous from the grip.
WES SEELEY: That's not a very good story.
JUSTIN LEONARD: I almost cut it off this morning when I was shaving.
WES SEELEY: Better.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Thanks. Actually, I was changing a tire on the way here and my finger got caught between the jack and the rim and almost just squeezed it right off.
WES SEELEY: That's almost too good a story.
Q. Are the crowds reacting to you differently? I mean, do you have bigger crowds now that you won the British Open and are a lot more people following you?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, probably so. You know, the last two weeks especially being at home. But, yeah, it's something that I've noticed a little bit, people recognizing me a little more and things like that.
Q. Are you tired yet?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Tired yet from what?
Q. Are you tired yet of being included in the group of Generation Next?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Why would that make me tired? I mean, I think it's a compliment.
Q. Talk about that a little bit. How did -- how do you feel about being included in that?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think it's a big compliment. There's a lot of great young players, and to be considered one of those, I mean, I -- no, I might get tired of it if I was 42 and they were saying, "hey he's one of the young great players." Hey, I'm not too young any more. I think it's a big compliment. I enjoy being put in that category.
Q. There seems to be a little more emphasis on you and several of the others of the group, Duval and Woods, that didn't seem to be there for maybe the generation previous. Why do you think that's happening now?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I have no idea. You know, maybe you contribute to college golf, maybe junior golf, I really don't know. I just -- there are some great, young players out there that are winning tournaments and competing in Majors. And, you know, I think that says a lot for the future of the PGA Tour and the game of golf.
Q. How, if any, has your life changed since you won the British Open?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Didn't we just do that one?
Q. Well, I meant more off the course and your time. I know you talked about the gallery.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Okay, off the course.
Q. I'm talking in general terms, not just the golf course.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, you know, there's more demands on my time and I'm quite a bit busier. Used to be when I would go home for a week or something, it would take me a day or so to get everything done and then I had a couple days to go fishing or just do whatever. And now it seems like it takes three or four days to get everything done. So it's -- you know, it's kind of become a bit of a time management game, you know, trying to find time to relax during off weeks. But it's, you know, it's something that I wouldn't -- I like it this way, better than having nothing to do. So it's something I wouldn't want to give up.
Q. Is there anything specific you do to relax away from the golf course? You say you try to relax. How do you do that?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I go fishing every once in a while, but it seems to get less and less.
Q. There's been some considerable scoring going on this year, not just on the PGA Tour, but in general from Notah Begay's 59 to Jay Sigal's 27 on the front nine last week. I'm wondering, you're kind of a student of the game or you are a student of the game. What is the evolution of scoring? Where is it going? Is somebody going to be shooting perhaps a 58 or 57 sometime in the near future with the equipment and the way guys are, you know, working out, all these other factors involved?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't really know how to answer that. I don't -- I mean, I've never thought about shooting 59. I mean, I've shot 29 a couple times on the front side, but, you know, it's -- I don't know. I don't know if it's -- I think it's a combination. I mean, the equipment is certainly -- technology has carried the game a long ways. Guys are better fit, you know, but at the same time, the golf courses are, you know, they're finding ways to make greens faster, to make fairways firmer. And so I don't -- I don't know. I think -- I don't know if you'll see a 57 any time soon, but I don't know. I don't know how to respond, because I don't -- I haven't thought about it that much, and I really don't -- I don't know if you could really attribute it to one thing.
Q. Would you give your thoughts on what Jack did at The Masters and is it something special for the players to come to his tournament here?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I think it's special coming here whether Jack has played well or not. But obviously I was on the course that day on Sunday, and you could definitely tell the difference between the roars that he got and roars or cheers for other players. It's kind of special being there, although I wasn't able to watch any of it. But to listen to it -- and you could hear the crowds even up on 18 when he was on the front side. You could hear the crowd roars as they changed the scoreboard, so, you know, it was pretty amazing being there during that. But I mean, this is a special week regardless of Augusta or whatever has happened.
Q. Is it an added incentive to have this being Jack's tournament, to come here, I mean?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah. I think -- I think, you know, the golf course speaks for itself. And for him and Mrs. Nicklaus to be so involved makes it a great event.
Q. You mentioned about some of the drawbacks to the success you've had of your time being in big demand. What are some of the unexpected benefits that you've enjoyed with your success on the Tour?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I think that relates more to my golf game like I was talking about. A little more confidence in what I'm doing. You know, I also felt a little easier when I was playing at the PGA, at The Masters this year. I felt more comfortable in playing, maybe because, you know, that sort of that pressure that I'd started to put on myself wasn't there. So, you know, I think the benefits that I see they're more towards the golf course. But don't get me wrong, I didn't -- drawback was a word you used. It's taking a little bit of adjusting off the course, and, you know, I think I've done a good job this year. Most of the time that I spend off the course, when I talk about being busier, it's, you know, it's writing thank you notes or doing autographs, returning letters. I mean, it's amazing you know, the best letters when I get written on notebook paper are written in Crayon. You know, does that say club, that kind of thing, from kids and teenagers and all the way up. So it's, you know, I try to take my time and do those sort of things. It does take some time, but at the same time, it's fun that people want to, you know, say, "Good job," or whatever. I haven't gotten too many negative letters, so it's not like, "Oh, dear I have to go through more mail." It's like, "What am I going to find in this batch?"
Q. I guess you have the AJGA Justin Leonard Tournament, and I was wondering how did you get involved in that? How important is it for you to be involved in that junior golf?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, it was actually their idea. They came to me and said they would like to host a tournament in Dallas, gave me the rundown and everything. I said, "Well, I think that sounds great." All of a sudden it was done. We're having it in two week in Dallas. I'm going to be pretty involved. I'm going to be out there for the Junior-Am and doing clinics and things like that. But the main focus is the juniors that are playing. I hope to get out and watch them play a little bit. It's fun. I grew up playing in some AJGA events, and I've kept up with the organization and things like that. It's kind of nice to be able to really help out with the tournament like this.
Q. Peter Thomson was in here a little while and we talked to him as the honoree for this tournament, also his captainship of the international team on the Presidents Cup. Are you thinking about the Presidents Cup at all yet?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No. I mean, I'm looking at the list and things like that, but in fact, I'm not sure where I am on the list. I'd say third or fourth or something, so.
Q. One of the things that we talked about, is he suggested a triad in the tournament where the three sides played all at the same location, but not every year.
JUSTIN LEONARD: What are the three sides?
WES SEELEY: A European team against the Americans and the internationals.
Q. Melding the two together, the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup becoming a tournament of its own?
JUSTIN LEONARD: One team.
WES SEELEY: One event, three teams.
Q. And one of the things that we talked about -- you don't like that idea?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No. This is my blank look.
Q. One of the things that we talked about was the Tour players having to face this every year now with the Ryder Cup one year and the Presidents Cup an alternative year where the European players are only having to deal with it once every two and the same with the international players. Do you think that that -- that the setup as it is now, the Americans players are willing to play every year in a tournament of that stature or that magnitude is going to change the attitudes of the American players toward either of those? Still the blank look. Thank you.
JUSTIN LEONARD: What? Okay. One, I can't answer that because I've played in both one time, so, you know, it's hard. I never -- if I go through and play two or three Ryder Cups where I did have that year in between, you know, I could better answer your question. You know, I think right now, the Ryder Cup for the American players has a little more than the Presidents Cup. Will that change? Probably so. But I don't think you should change an event like the Ryder Cup. I mean, it's just -- it's incredible to be a part of. It's got to be incredible -- I mean, I've watched. I've never watched one in person as a spectator, but watching it on TV, playing in it, it's incredible, and I -- I wouldn't want to change that event. You know, two, doing that once a year, I mean, yeah, it's kind of tough. And, you know, I know some guys aren't looking forward to the flight to Australia and things like that, but I mean, I had a lot of fun playing in '96, so it's something that should I make the team; I'll look forward to going. I think it's really going to -- I think taking it abroad is really going to heighten the fans' involvement. I think it's going to receive more global attention which is, I think, what the event needs. So, you know, but I don't have a problem, you know, it's one week. There's 52 other weeks, so it's not like it's taking this huge chunk out of anybody's life, except maybe for the captains. But, I mean, for the players, no, I mean, I look forward to playing and hopefully I'll be playing in both for a long time.
Q. Is there any different kind of feel between the two?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yes.
Q. Describe it. Describe the difference.
JUSTIN LEONARD: I've played one here at the Presidents Cup and I've played the Ryder Cup overseas. So there's a very different feel as far as the galleries and the crowds. You know, it's -- I don't know, the Ryder Cup just has a little more history -- well, a lot more history. And, you know, I think there's maybe a little more of a rivalry there right now. But I think as the Presidents Cup continues to grow, you'll see more of that.
Q. Thomson suggested that there is more nationalism involved in the Ryder Cup because it's small, Europe and Great Britain. That there's not going to be as much nationalism ever on the international team because they come from such far flung countries. Do you agree with that?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Sure.
Q. Thank you.
JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah. I could understand why he would say that.
Q. You won twice last year and won once this year, but you only have one repeat win on Tour this year, and I think the last 13 Majors have been won by 13 different players. Do you feel it's gotten more difficult to win since you've been on Tour, and if so, does that change at all your goals as what's realistic for you to accomplish as, you know, when you look at what I want to accomplish in the year?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Okay. No, it hasn't changed my goals and what I'm trying to accomplish. Yeah, it's difficult to win a tournament out here. I mean, people get disappointed because Tiger Woods doesn't win a tournament, PGA Tour event for nine months. I mean, well, he had two of those months off, so I mean, it's -- and, you know, there's a lot of great players out here every week, and, you know, it's tough. It is tough to win, and -- but, you know, it's one of those things that you have -- different players have different -- what they view as success. I mean, I finished tied for 7th or 8th last week and that was a success for me, because I felt like I played well, I did some good things. So, you know, it's -- there's different goals than just, you know, I want to win three tournaments this year. I want to win a Major. I want to do this. There's different things that make a year determine whether it's good or bad.
Q. Do you look at it like, well, if I'm consistent, then I'll give myself X number of chances and I should get, you know, some victories as long as I'm consistent?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I look at it as trying to be ready to play every week, get myself in position, going into the weekend and to Sunday, get off to a good start, do the things I need to do to give myself a chance. Once I have that chance, then I focus on trying to win a golf tournament, but there's a lot -- for me, there's a lot of steps before I get there.
Q. Is it any different for you at all from a year ago? You used to go to a tournament thinking you could win, now you go into a tournament with everybody thinking you can win, whether it's a Major or the Memorial. Is that different for you at all?
JUSTIN LEONARD: It's not something I really noticed or that I -- I mean, quite honestly pay a lot of attention to. You know, my -- the expectations I have on myself are going to be higher than anybody else's, I can guarantee you that. So, you know, that's what I have to live up to, is what I -- how I rate or grade myself.
Q. Jack Nicklaus talked about peaking for the U.S. Open. Do you do any sort of preparation like that where you try to --
JUSTIN LEONARD: What does he do?
WES SEELEY: He wouldn't tell us.
JUSTIN LEONARD: What does he do?
Q. I mean, he says like for Saturday, he wants to be at his sharpest and he prepares himself in such a way where it builds up. I mean, especially for Majors, so you're going like this four times a year. Is that something that you do or think of in that way to prepare for a Major or do you do anything different? Not really?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I want to do what Jack does. You know, it's different for different Majors. Sometimes if I'm not playing well, I don't want to play the week before. You know, this year before the Open, I'm taking the week before off. Part of the reason is to help out with the AJGA tournament early in the week. You know, I'll go through my normal routines, but I'm probably going to move everything up a day because I'm going out there on Sunday, play three good practice rounds, but there is -- I did kind of learn that going out and playing three or four practice rounds and getting all excited on Tuesday and Wednesday, I didn't quite have as much energy, you know, during the actual tournament. So I've kind of been able to pace myself a little bit during those practice days to where I'm really ready to play Thursday through Sunday, or that's the goal that I have.
WES SEELEY: Okay folks?
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