An Interview With: Justin Leonard

JULIUS MASON: Justin Leonard, ladies and gentlemen, in at 11-under at the 86th PGA Championship.

Some thoughts on your rounds today, please, Mr.�Leonard.

JUSTIN LEONARD: I felt like today I played pretty solid. I didn't really�-- I didn't play great. I missed a few fairways, but I hit some smart shots today and gave myself some chances, and much like I've done most of the week, I've taken advantage of the opportunities that I've had and tried to minimize some of the mistakes.

JULIUS MASON: Can we go through your card, birdies and bogeys, please?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I bogeyed the first hole. I drove it into the right fairway bunker and pitched out, hit on the green about 25 feet, missed the putt.

I birdied the 5th hole. I hit a 4-wood second shot just short and right of the green and pitched to about three feet.

Birdied 6, hit a sand wedge to about three feet.

Birdied 10, hit a sand wedge to about four feet.

Birdied 12, hit a pitching wedge to about six feet.

Bogeyed 15, drove it into a fairway bunker, laid up down the fairway, hit it on about 15 feet and missed the putt.

Birdied 16, hit 3-wood second shot and about 15 yards short of the green, pitched to about six feet.

Bogeyed 18, hit a 3-iron in the left green-side bunker and hit it -- almost hit a great shot but it came up short, and then had a nice 2-putt from about 35 feet.

Q. I think you had three missed cuts or something like that before this last three starts out. There's no magic bullets or anything, but is there anything in particular you can put your finger on other than taking that time off and maybe refreshing yourself before this last pretty good run started?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, yeah, I think nothing really physically. Even through that stretch of missing cuts, my swing was fine. It was more my whole thought process. I was almost waiting for something bad to happen. I think that I've gone through it a few times and I know a lot of other players have, as well. It's just not much fun.

I think the time away, coming back with a little fresher attitude and not worrying so much about where the ball ends up or am I going to make or miss this putt or what am I going to shoot today; just go out there and have a game plan of what I'm going to try and do with each shot. Beyond that, the results are kind of out of my control. But if I do the right things to get ready, to hit a shot, I'm rested, those kind of things, then chances are I'm going to hit a decent shot.

Just that kind of attitude has really pulled me out of that slump, and these last three weeks have been pretty good.

Q. Will it be difficult to maintain that kind of carefree attitude tomorrow knowing what's at stake, basically you and Vijay there?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I think that's part of the battle that I have tomorrow.

I've gained a lot of perspective in the last couple of years, since Hazeltine, and tomorrow's not�-- what I do tomorrow is not going to define the player that I am, the person that I am to myself, and it really shouldn't for anybody else.

I think that if I can keep that in my thoughts, then I'll have a better chance of doing the things that I've done and not worrying about trying to win a golf tournament, but, you know, go out and try and have the right plan.

If I do those little things, hopefully the golf tournament will take care of itself.

Q. Pete Dye is known for his mental intimidation. Obviously, coming in with a score like this today, you were able to block that out. Is this part of this mental discipline that you're telling us about, being focused out here today and bringing that into your game tomorrow?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I think that's part of it. I think what you say about Pete Dye is absolutely correct. I've played a lot of his golf courses, and may not have realized it at the time, but after playing this golf course this week, he really does try and divert your attention. He wants you looking at everything but the fairway or the green where you're supposed to hit it. He's very good at that. I mean, this is probably the most dramatic of his courses that I've played, and if you've played a single Dye course, you know they are pretty dramatic.

I've been fortunate enough to play some of his golf courses, and I don't think anybody here really struggles with�-- anybody playing this event really struggles with narrowing that focus.

Maybe my history of Dye courses and having played a round with him once and him telling me that very thing, you know, it might have helped me a little bit this week.

Q. It seemed like a lot of players, sort of on 15, 16, 17, 18, there was some oil leakage. Could you talk about how hard they were playing today, and especially 18, a lot of guys had trouble handling that.

JUSTIN LEONARD: Those last four did play very difficult today. They were all into the wind. Thursday and Friday, you had helping wind on�-- excuse me, on 15, 16, 17, 18, there was actually a little helping wind today.

The holes played very difficult. 15, I hit a driver and a 6-iron yesterday. Today I didn't have a chance to hit the green, but I probably would have been hitting a 3- or 4-iron.

16, yesterday I hit a 4-iron just short of the green. Today I hit a 3-wood.

17 was just a club difference.

18 is just a very difficult hole. That green, the length of the hole.

Yeah, I'm not surprised. I knew that those last four holes would be very tough this afternoon.

Q. When you change swings, a lot of times it takes a long time to get used that new swing, and I know you're not changing swings, but you're changing attitude out here. Does it take a while for you to get used to that, first of all, and be able to fall back and have it as a comfort zone for you when you're out here in this kind of situation?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I haven't had a whole lot of trouble with it. It is more simple than what I described to you. There's really just a couple thoughts that I have.

So, it's not like changing a golf swing. I've been through that about four years ago. Trust me, it took me a couple of days to get the hang of this. It took me about a year and a half to get the hang of that swing. So the learning curve is a little easier on this mental stuff.

Q. You're obviously focused on your own game, but can you just talk about what it's like trying to catch a guy or match strides with a guy like Vijay who is obviously playing so solid and he's been playing so great all year?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, fortunately, I don't have to match drives with him because that's a losing proposition for me.

Q. Strides.

JUSTIN LEONARD: Strides, well, that's hard, too (laughter). He's got really long legs.

Vijay is an incredible player. I think over the last year and a half or two years, if he's not�-- if he has not played the best of anyone, he's a close second or a close third.

Tomorrow is going to be a fun day. I'm going to get to go head-to-head with one of the best players in the world, if not the best player in the world. It should be really exciting, and that's a huge challenge. At the same time, I've got to go play a Pete Dye golf course that's pretty difficult, and I think I need to focus on that task more than I need to focus on Vijay and what he's doing.

You know, the last few holes, if it comes down to a match-play situation, that would be great. But I've got a little ways to go before I get in that kind of mindset.

Q. When you won at Troon in�'97, did you think that majors were going to be, I don't want to say easy because obviously they are never easy, but did you think, okay, this might be the start of something, and if so, why do you think that hasn't happened for you in majors?

JUSTIN LEONARD: To be totally honest, I never gave it much thought. I haven't given much thought to what do I want to have accomplished by the end of my career, what kind of player do I think I am.

I mean, I've let a couple slip away, there's no doubt. But I think a lot of good players have, as well, and if I ended my career today, I would be completely satisfied and very proud of what I've accomplished. If in ten years I haven't won another major, you know, it's not going to bug me that much.

Now, saying all that, I would love to go out and win tomorrow.

JULIUS MASON: Justin Leonard, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

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