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October 22 2011

10:44 PM

Chip-ins fuel Leonard’s 70

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."

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