By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Justin Leonard broke into one of those cat-caught-the-canary grins.
Someone had just asked what he felt had been the strength of his game on Saturday. But Leonard didn't go for one of the standard answers like putting or ball-striking or putting the driver in the fairway.
"The strength of my round was definitely from off the green," grinned the Texan who chipped in three times for birdie on the front nine. "... The one at 5 was going pretty fast, and the one at 9 was trying to give myself a decent putt at par. And the one at 8 was a little more realistic, but to hole it three times from off the green was pretty good."
To say the least. And thanks to a scrappy 70 that included six birdies and four bogeys, Leonard is tied for the lead in the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at 14 under with Kevin Chappell. They're one stroke ahead of rookie Bio Kim and two up on Nick O'Hern and Henrik Stenson.
Leonard played with Kim and Stenson on Saturday, and the Swede tried to steal some of his thunder. Minutes after Leonard chipped in from 69 feet at the fifth hole, Stenson holed a shot for birdie at the sixth.
"Henrik and I have played a lot of golf together," Leonard said.
"We've played in some Ryder Cup matches against each other. We've
played at the Accenture Match Play a couple of times, and I still
think he's probably up on me as far as chipping in.
"He's a good guy, and we're friends, and I think we both look forward to playing with each other. When I holed it on 5, then he holed it on 6, he kind of gave me the little, you know, bang. And then 8, and then 9, of course he dropped his putter and started coming over, and I was telling my caddie, just keep him away from me, just keep him away from me.
"But you know, we're just having fun. He's a little goofy, I'm a little goofy, so we have a good time together."
Justin Leonard, seeking his first win since 2008, just holed out off the fringe on the 500-yard, par-4 ninth to take over the outright lead.
Leonard is 14 under but being chased by 52-year-old Tom Pernice Jr., who is trying to become the second-oldest player to win on the PGA TOUR (Sam Snead, 52 years, 10 months).
Pernice has yet to make a bogey this week.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Henrik Stenson has yet to make a birdie on Saturday during the third round of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
Even so, the Swede has broken out of a three-way tie for the lead and now is alone at the top of the leaderboard at 12 under. His playing partners, Justin Leonard and Bio Kim, have both dropped one shot to par and trail by one.
James Driscoll, who entered the week ranked No. 125 on the money list, has joined the group at 11 under after making birdie on three of his first four holes.
Luke Donald, who must finish in a two-way tie for second or better to have a chance to win the money title, is headed in the right direction early Saturday. He made a 5-footer for birdie at the third hole to move to 8 under and into a tie for 11th.
The man Donald is trying to unseat, Webb Simpson, started off with a 12-footer for birdie on No. 1. But he missed a 6-footer for par at the fourth hole and couldn't get up and down from left of the green at the par-3 sixth so Simpson is now tied for 28th at 6 under.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Justin Leonard joked that he hasn't gotten an invoice from either one. Yet.
But if Leonard keeps playing the way he did on Friday at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, Dr. Morris Pickens and Dave Stockton Jr. will surely be sending their bills to his Texas home.
Leonard fired a 63 on the Palm Course, which was his low round of the season, to seize a share of the lead in the final event of the PGA TOUR's Fall Series. He's tied at 12 under with Bio Kim and Henrik Stenson, two strokes ahead of Nick O'Hern.
Leonard has won 12 times on the PGA TOUR, including the 1997 British Open, but he has yet to finish in the top 10 in a decidedly sub-par 20111 season. He even missed the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup for the first time in his career.
“It hasn't been a good year,” Leonard acknowledged. “I'm looking forward to the year being over. But it's nice to have a chance this week to finish it off on a good note.”
Leonard credits the turnaround to some chances he made in the last few months. He sought the advice of Pickens, a sports psychologist based in Sea Island, Ga., and Stockton, a putting whiz, as well as putting in the hours with his long-time swing coach Randy Smith.
Leonard first met with Pickens on Sunday at the British Open, then the two continued their work at Greensboro and spent a day together in Dallas about a month ago. Under his guidance, Leonard has changed the way he practices to include more targeted drills rather than randomly ramming putts into the hole.
“I'm kind of moving around and each one kind of has a finish, whether it's making 90 percent in order to be done,” Leonard said.
As far as the invoice is concerned, "I haven't gotten it yet," Leonard said. "We were supposed to chat about it last week, and he was very sympathetic to how I played (Leonard missed the cut). So I think he's waiting for a good week and then it's going to come."
This certainly appears like it could be the week.
Complementing Leonard’s new practice strategy is Stockton. The two hooked up after the Frys.com Open and spent several hours together in San Diego 10 days ago.
Leonard, who used just 26 putts on Friday, felt the time has paid dividends as well. He made seven birdies and holed a wedge from 114 yards at the 14th hole for eagle in the 63.
"The things we talked about really resonated with me," Leonard said. "I mean, getting back to being more natural and getting my hands a little more forward and really speeding up my routine, which has been great, because I'm kind of getting out of my own way a little bit. So it's good.
“Haven't gotten that bill yet either, but hoping for another phone call on Monday or Tuesday."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Justin Leonard came to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic ranked 144th on the money list. Although there was some confusion during his press conference after Leonard grabbed a share of the lead, his card for the 2012 PGA TOUR season is secure, though, and here's why.
It all started when Leonard received a 10-year exemption for winning the 1997 British Open.
A player who earns a multiple-year exemption for winning a major, the PLAYERS Championship, the TOUR Championship or an official World Golf Championships event will have that extended by one year for each official victory in subsequent years. But in no case shall it be extended beyond five years from the current calendar year.
So in 2003, Leonard's victories began adding an extra year to the original exemption. He won The Honda Classic in 2003 which took the exemption to 2008, the 2005 Bob Hope Classic (2009), the 2005 FedEx St. Jude Classic (2010), the 2007 Valero Texas Open (2011) and the 2008 Stanford St. Jude Classic (2012).
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The hot hand in the afternoon wave is an unlikely one – Jeff Maggert.
The 47-year-old has made just five cuts in 17 starts this year on TOUR, most recently in early May at the Zurich Classic. But you wouldn’t know it from his play Friday on the Magnolia Course, where he’s 5 under through 10 holes (he started on No. 10) and 8 under for the tournament.
Justin Leonard and Bio Kim continue to lead at 12 under after shooting 63 and 65 in the morning and are the only players at double-digits under par.
In the afternoon’s marquee matchup, Webb Simpson is turning the tables a bit on Luke Donald. Donald, hoping to overtake Simpson atop the money list, played better by two shots Thursday but is 1 over on his second round with all pars and one bogey through eight holes. Simpson is 2 under for his round and has overtaken Donald on the leaderboard.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
When Bill Haas won the FedExCup and TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola Sunday at East Lake, it was only appropriate given the 2011 season that he did it with a belly putter in the bag.
But it was a wedge, not the putter, that was the story of the day.
Haas’ amazing water shot (watch it again here) was a priceless endorsement for Titleist Vokey wedges. With his 60-degree Vokey Design Spin Milled 60-E wedge (the “E” refers to the type of grind; this one was bent to 59 degrees per his preference, with seven degrees of bounce), Haas pulled off a shot that instantly became part of PGA TOUR lore.
“The full sole of the Vokey 60-E helped Bill pull off the shot," Vokey said on the Titleist Tour blog. "He was able to open up the face and still have enough bounce to play it like a bunker shot. The grooves of the wedge along with a descending blow allowed him to spin the ball, even out of the shallow water.
"It was an amazing shot, one of the best I've seen in all my years of watching TOUR players."
RENEWED: Dustin Johnson is in the market for a new caddie, but won’t be hunting for a new equipment or clothing deal anytime soon. Johnson, most recently a winner at The Barclays, signed a contract extension through the 2015 season with TaylorMade-adidas.
"Dustin tops the charts in terms of talent, potential and charisma," said Bob Maggiore, TaylorMade-adidas vice president of global brand marketing. "He has the ability and determination to win anytime, anywhere, and the way he’s handled both victory and adversity during his first few years on tour has won him a huge fan following, and rightly so. He’s the real deal.”
SWOOSH: If there was an equipment scoreboard in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, Titleist would be the big winner with Haas and Webb Simpson (the Deutsche Bank Championship winner and pre-TOUR Championship No. 1 in points), while TaylorMade (Johnson, BMW champion Justin Rose) would come in second.
Nike Golf wouldn’t have been on the board.
None of its staff players qualified for the 30-man TOUR Championship. Charl Schwartzel, Lucas Glover and Jhonattan Vegas played at the BMW but failed to advance to the Playoffs finale.
Nike’s stable of players figure to have an enhanced presence in the Fall Series, however. Justin Leonard is fighting for a spot inside the all-important top 125, and of course Tiger Woods is teeing it up at the Frys.com Open.
RORY’S GIFT: Rory McIlroy’s relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki is clearly healthy and happy – because what says true love like a hand-stamped wedge?
Wozniacki tweeted a picture earlier this week of a custom Titleist wedge McIlroy had made, featuring “WOZZILROY” stamped along the side of the clubhead.
No word on whether McIlroy has a similar wedge stamped “MCNIACKI.”
Justin Leonard entered the week 142nd in FedExCup points -- and he nearly played his way in. But a bogey on the 72nd hole ended his chances of playing The Barclays next week.
Leonard shot 69 and is currently in a tie for 17th, good for 50 FedExCup points. But it's not enough. Rookie William McGirt looks like he is going to hang onto the 125th and final spot.
"You know, I got a few weeks off now and I'll work on it," Leonard said. "I kind of figured I had to make, make another birdie in the last three holes and, you know, had good looks at it 16, 17, I hit two good putts."
For Leonard, the Fall Series awaits. He played three Fall events last year, and he said Sunday he will likely play in three more in 2011.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Justin Leonard's chances of competing in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup have likely ended with a bogey at the 18th hole.
Leonard drove it into the left rough and had to chip out. He hit his third shot to 12 feet but his par putt didn't sniff the hole. That lifted William McGirt back to No. 125 and gave Padraig Harrington some breathing room at 124th.
Leonard is now ranked No. 126 and appears to be headed for a five-week break with the family.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- John Mallinger has just bogeyed the 11th hole, playing a bit of Army golf from the rough.
With that, he dropped into a five-way tie for second -- and out of the top 125. That boosted Padraig Harrington back to No. 124 and William McGirt back to the bubble spot. Justin Leonard, who is playing the 18th hole, is less than a point behind.
Minutes later, though, McGirt and Leonard had changed spots – likely due to Tommy Gainey’s double bogey at the 11th hole.