August 18 2012
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The 2012 season hasn't exactly been a whole lot of fun for Justin Leonard.
After all, he only had one top-10 in his first 20 starts -- and that came back in January. Since that tie for eighth at the Farmers Insurance Open, Leonard hadn't finished higher than 29th (and missed 10 cuts) until he tied for fifth at the Reno-Tahoe Open in his last start three weeks ago.
That performance at Montreux Golf & Country Club just may have turned Leonard's season around, though.
The tournament featured the Stableford scoring system which puts a premium on making birdies. So Leonard went out and made 18 that week and he already has 19 birdies at Sedgefield in three rounds of the Wyndham Championship.
The Texan opened with four straight birdies Saturday, making putts of 13, 16 and 13 feet and chipping in from 69 feet at the fourth hole on the way to a 64. It was his third straight round in the 60s, a welcome first for the 2012 season.
"All day I hit the ball pretty well," Leonard said. "... I'm making a lot of birdies and, you know, it's fun. I'm enjoying these last two weeks I've played, you know, playing a lot better and, you know, certainly in a better mindset." '
Leonard will start the final round at 10 under, which is tied for 10th right now. He sees the difference in the last two weeks and the first 20 as more of an attitude adjustment than a technical change.
"I wish it was technical because that would have been very easy to fix," Leonard said with a smile. "Just a little lighter attitude and not just concerned about the score that I shoot or where I'm finishing in tournaments and am I going to make the cut, those kinds of things. Just really being able to relax and just go out and play golf."
Leonard has applied the same approach to the FedExCup Playoffs, too.
He entered the week ranked 157th, but Leonard now has a shot at returning to the Playoffs -- although he likely needs to finish fourth or better. A year ago he missed a par putt on the 72nd hole and finished 126th on the money list, missing the Playoffs for the first time in his career.
"I know I need a top-3, 4 finish and I certainly gave myself a better chance with my round today," he said. "So I just want to continue on the things I'm doing and hopefully I can come out and play a good round tomorrow and see if I can get in there next week."