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An Interview With: Justin Leonard

JULIUS MASON: Justin Leonard, ladies and gentlemen. Some thoughts on the round today, the playoff, and we'll go through your card.

JUSTIN LEONARD: I'm pretty pleased with the way I handled today. I felt like I hit the ball pretty well. The golf course was a lot more difficult today. I'm not sure what the difference in stroke average was, but it sure felt a lot harder.

I think what ultimately cost me the tournament was my putting, and I missed about four putts, I think, inside of ten feet on the back nine. It's pretty hard to win a golf tournament, much less a major, when you do something like that.

I birdied 3. Hit a 4-iron about 15 feet.

Bogeyed 7. I hit a 4-iron over the green. Chipped to about four feet. Missed that putt.

Bogeyed 10. Drove it in the left rough. Hit it over the green. Left my chip short about 15 feet; missed that.

Birdied 13. Hit a sand wedge to about 20 feet.

Bogeyed 14. Hit it in the right rough. Hit a 9-iron over the green. Chipped down to about ten feet and missed it.

16, laid up in the left fairway bunker. Hit it up just left of the green and chipped to about five feet and missed that.

18, hit a great drive and really, what I thought was a perfect 5-iron. Came up just short and I didn't get it up-and-down. Missed about a 12-footer.

Q. You mentioned it was a 5-iron on 18. Can you just take us through your thought process, where you were aiming on that shot, and again on the approach on 18 when you saw where Vijay put his shot in the playoff on 18?

JUSTIN LEONARD: In regulation, I think I had about 204. Good line, and I just felt like it was a really good 5-iron, I could go ahead and hit it. I think I had 97 or 98 to carry everything.

Really, I was trying to hit it at the hole. If I try and play safe, hit it over to the right, I have a really hard 2-putt. It was a good club. I felt like I was swinging the club very nicely, and, you know, when I hit the shot, I thought I just ended this golf tournament. I was a little surprised and unfortunate this came up just a couple feet short. I didn't have a terrible lie, but not a good one, either, and left my chip short. I wasn't able to make the putt.

Regulation, I knew Vijay was in the center of the green. I tried to go at the hole again, and I didn't hit it quite as well. Caught it a little thin and it ended up a little right of where I wanted to.

Q. The shot you hit on 15 in regulation till maybe Vijay's shot in the playoff, it was probably the shot of the tournament. Did you think at that point, you get that in and the tournament is yours?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I certainly, because I think at the time I had a one-shot lead and Vijay is obviously in trouble, he made bogey. So, yeah, I think if I made that putt, I've got a three-shot lead with three holes to play.

Obviously, anything can happen, but yeah, I feel comfortable with a two-shot lead the way I was hitting it. You know, any number of those putts, if the putt at 16 would have gone in, if the putt at 7 would have gone in. I mean, we could go on and on and I'm sure I will through the night in my own mind (laughter.)

But, yeah, to hit that shot at 15, that was definitely my shot of the week.

Q. What would you have said to somebody if they told you 9-under would be good enough to win entering the day, and were you surprised that everybody basically came back except DiMarco?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't know how to answer the first question.

The second question, the golf course was very difficult today. The greens really firmed up. The wind was a little bit stronger than it has been the rest of the week. You know, the biggest thing is the firmness and the speed of the greens, very hard to get the ball close to the hole. And coming out of the rough, it's impossible. And it was much more manageable early in the week because the greens were soft.

But today, unless you were coming out of the fairway, very hard to control where the ball ended up.

Q. Which one of those putts would you like to have back? It appears to me that you could have put this tournament outside earlier. Which one would you like to have back?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I couldn't agree with you more.

Any one of them. All I needed was one of them to go. Obviously I think the putts at 15 and 16, being so close to the end of the round, I think if either of those fell, obviously, if either of those would have fallen in, it would be a different story.

Q. Obviously, the disappointment of not winning, but you said that to get Hal's attention, you would have to be sitting here on Sunday. You're sitting here at second. What do you think your chances are? Have you talked to Hal all week as far as a captain's choice?

JUSTIN LEONARD: You know, I said hello to Hal today. I said I hope I make your decision tough for you.

I think if I won, it probably would have taken any decision out of play because would I have qualified automatically.

I would love to be picked. I think that I could help the U.S. win the championship.

I also know that there are some guys ahead of me in the points that have played a lot more consistently than I have over the last three years. You know, I'm just starting to play well here in the last six weeks. I'm not expecting to get picked. I'm not going to be disappointed if I don't get picked because I know the criteria to make the team.

However, if I am, I'd love to be there. I think I can help the team. But there are a lot of other players that can help that team, as well.

Is that ambivalent enough?

Q. Vijay gets one birdie all day and it's good enough to win a major. How improbable is that?

JUSTIN LEONARD: Yeah, I doubt that anybody would have thought that could happen on this golf course this week.

Q. I just wanted to get your feel for the course as a major venue in the future. There's talk of the 2012 Open, and how would you like to return to the scene of the crime and maybe get another shot at this place?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I think the golf course is fantastic. The fans up here are incredible all week. They seem to be pulling for everybody. I think that's the way it should be. I think the golf course held up very nicely, provided a great test for us, was very dramatic for the people that were here and the viewers at home, and, you know, I think it was a pretty good championship all in all.

Q. Could you talk about what your plan was coming into today? If it was any different than the first three days, did you have to adjust it during the round as you saw that the conditions had gotten much more difficult today than they had been?

JUSTIN LEONARD: I didn't really adjust my strategy much. My strategy all along is, you know, when I feel good , if I've got a good yardage, a good club, things look inviting, then I'm going to go ahead and try to hit it at the hole. When things aren't, then I'm going to play safe.

Same thing I have been doing all week. Obviously, with the conditions the way they were today, playing safe the majority of the time, because I did miss some greens. But I really missed them in the right places where I had to play from. And so I think I did a pretty good job with my strategy, if I just had putted the way I putted the rest of the week. Again, I think we'd have a different outcome.

JULIUS MASON: Justin Leonard, ladies and gentlemen.

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