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October 21 2011

11:15 PM

Leonard’s changes pay dividends

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."

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