TWICE AS NICE
Marriage has reinvigorated Justin Leonard
This is an article from the April 29, 2002 issue
The old Justin Leonard would have taken a pass on the 2002
WorldCom Classic, a tournament in which he had missed the cut
the two previous times he'd played. "I tried not to come,"
Leonard admitted on Sunday, after winning at Harbour Town by a
stroke over Heath Slocum. Truth is, Leonard made the trip to
Hilton Head Island, S.C., only because his wife of three months,
Amanda, is as spontaneous as Leonard is predictable. Amanda had
heard that Harbour Town was the place to have a good time the
week after the Masters, and she wanted to check it out. So just
as she talked Justin into running the White Rock Marathon in
Dallas in December, she talked him into giving the tournament
another chance, with the condition that if he didn't play well,
they didn't have to come back. The Leonards will definitely be
Marriage has been an eye-opener for Justin, who was named one of
the 25 most eligible bachelors in the world in 1997 by
Cosmopolitan magazine. "After traveling with Amanda this year, I
don't know what I did when I traveled alone," he says. "I had to
be bored out of my mind." Nothing is boring back home in Dallas,
either. Remember the Mediterranean-style house that Justin moved
into last spring in the exclusive Highland Park neighborhood?
Amanda has decided it needs a woman's touch. "How should I say
this?" she says. "I'm changing the furniture a bit." That's not
all that's been rearranged. "I also have a new caddie [Brent
Everson], new irons, a new driver and a new putter," Leonard said
after hanging on to win despite a birdieless, two-over-par 73 on
As the final round concluded, Amanda was already in position
behind the 18th green when her husband approached, needing a par
for his first victory in an event other than the Texas Open--he
won that tournament in 2000 and 2001--since the '98 Players
Championship. Amanda paced nervously until Amy Mickelson, whose
husband, Phil, was in the penultimate pairing and about to finish
third for the fourth time in five starts, called out, "Come here,
I'll break you in on how to do this." Leonard got his par and his
seventh Tour win, and Amanda met him by the green and gave him a
The WorldCom was like a Tour event before the arrival of Tiger
Woods, back when Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion, was
considered one of the game's up-and-comers. He'll turn 30 on
June 15, and with the Tour turning into a power game, the future
for a relatively short knocker such as Leonard--he ranks 103rd
in driving distance, at 274.2 yards--has looked about as bright
as the Montreal Expos'. Aside from the Texas Open, Leonard has
had one bright shining moment in the last 3 1/2 years. At the
'99 Ryder Cup, he holed the unlikely putt that sealed an even
unlikelier U.S. victory, but his come-from-behind rally that day
had as much to do with Jose Maria Olazabal's poor play as it did
with Leonard's magical putting. Leonard, though, has never been
lacking in one critical area: competitiveness. "I want to be
among the elite players," he said on Sunday. "I just don't feel
like I've been there these last couple of years."
Maybe that's something that will change too.
If you want a course to stand the test of time, start with a top
design, like Harbour Town's. With tiny greens and claustrophobic
fairways, Harbour Town--at 6,916 yards seemingly too short for
today's pros--played like a monster.
Bottom LINES by Sal Johnson
Justin Leonard is the first person to win a Tour event without a
birdie on the final 18 since Vijay Singh at the 1995 Buick
Classic.... In 19 starts on Tour, WorldCom Classic runner-up
Heath Slocum's previous best was a tie for sixth in February's
Tucson Open.... Davis Love III led after the first round for the
second straight week, but he tied for fifth. Tiger Woods is the
only first-round leader, at Bay Hill, to win this year....
Cristie Kerr's victory in the LPGA's Longs Drug Challenge was
her first in 136 starts. Kerr, the LPGA's 84th wire-to-wire
winner since 1980, hit 64 greens (89%) in regulation, the best
on tour this season.... Twenty-two PGA Tour winners teed up at
the Buy.com Arkansas Classic, but the event was won by Monday
qualifier Jace Bugg, 25, a mini-tour player from Henderson, Ky.
The LPGA, with seven fewer tournaments than a year ago, has been
downsized, but not as much as some players. Dina Ammaccapane has
dropped 30 pounds, but that's nothing compared with Cristie Kerr,
the winner of last week's Longs Drugs Challenge. The 24-year-old
Kerr has shed 50 pounds by watching what she eats (no fried food,
but an occasional chocolate treat is O.K.) and by exercising.
Kerr says her flexibility has improved 100%, but that she didn't
shape up for golf. She did it because her mother had a heart
attack when Cristie was in ninth grade and her father's parents
both had bypass operations. "I was headed down that road," Kerr
told SI. "I had to change for my health. I want to live."
Greg Norman, the fall guy in 1994 when his idea for a world tour
caused a rift between him and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem,
isn't going out on another limb. He has said no to the proposed
Major Champions tour for players age 37-55.
Now there are two golfers whom Colin Montgomerie can't
beat--Tiger Woods and Seve Ballesteros. On Sunday, Ballesteros,
1,240th in the World Ranking, beat Montgomerie, 29th, in singles
for the second straight time in the Seve Trophy, a Ryder
Cup-style event won 14 1/2-11 1/2 by a Great Britain and Ireland
team over a squad representing Europe.
After shooting an 11-under 59 in a high school tournament, Jake
Grodzinsky, a junior at Sedona (Ariz.) Red Rock High, was asked
if he'd ever heard of the original Mr. 59, Al Geiberger. "Yeah,"
said Jake. "Doesn't he have a kid on Tour?"
Chris Cain, the pro at Penn State's White Course, played a
record 505 holes there on April 17, breaking the old PGA mark of
most holes in a day by 29. Playing with a cart in 90[degree]
heat, Cain went around (and around) in 12 hours. Some stats: He
played 228 holes before relieving himself, downed 12 Gatorades
and 10 bottles of water (but still needed four IVs), and didn't
Domingo Lopez, the father of LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy, died on
April 15 in Roswell, N.Mex. He was 87. The owner of an auto-body
shop, Domingo started his daughter in golf when she was eight
years old. His best putting tip to Nancy: Don't take the putter
back with your right hand; push it back with the left hand.
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