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Newz Forum: GOLF: Leonard steals Hope for first victory since '03

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posted on Jan, 30 2005 @ 07:52 PM
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LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Justin Leonard knows what the previous two Bob Hope Chrysler Classic champions went on to accomplish, although he isn't phoning in his coat size to Augusta just yet.
 

Leonard came from three shots back to pass faltering front-runner Joe Ogilvie on the third hole Sunday on his way to a 5-under 67 and three-shot victory over Ogilvie and Tim Clark.

Last year's champion, Phil Mickelson used the Hope as an early springboard to win the Masters, his first major title. Mike Weir, the 2003 Hope winner, went on to don the green jacket at Augusta that year.

"I would say it's just coincidence, but look at the two guys who won this tournament the previous two years," Leonard said. "Two pretty good players that probably set up pretty well for Augusta.

"I love playing Augusta. I'm looking very much forward to it."

He smiled and added, "I certainly hope to keep that streak alive. I may write that in my yardage book to give me a little boost of confidence."

Leonard, the 1997 British Open champion, ended a winless string that stretched back almost two years.

"I enjoy taking pressure off myself, because I'm usually a little more relaxed and have a little more fun," he said. "It will inspire me a bit, knowing that one is not enough.

"I've been sitting on eight (career) wins for almost two years, and it's nice to get a ninth."

Leonard finished the 90-hole tournament at 28-under 332.

Ogilvie, winless in his six years on the tour, had a closing 73. Clark, who won the South African Open in his native country a week earlier, shot 69.

Coming off his worst year since joining the tour full-time in 1995, Leonard rolled in six birdie putts and had just one bogey in the final round at PGA West's Palmer Course.

He began the day three shots behind Ogilvie, who had been tied for the lead or alone at the top since the opening round of the five-day event.

"The rain dance didn't work," Ogilvie said, joking. "I was trying for a rainout today, but that didn't happen.

"I certainly didn't play the way I would have liked today, but I got a pretty good front row seat for a great round of golf (by Leonard). I felt very comfortable."

Clark's performance was impressive considering he had never so much as seen any of the four courses used for the Hope. After he won in South Africa the previous Sunday, he hopped on a plane and spent some 50 hours traveling -- and waiting between connections -- on his way to the five-day Hope.

"Coming here so far, such a travel, I didn't expect much of a week," said Clark, who earned $413,600 (to Leonard's $846,000) for his trouble.

The week was a blur to him.

"I can't even remember my (final) round, to be honest," Clark said. "I couldn't even tell you what I did on 3. I don't even remember what 3 looks like."

Leonard missed the cut last week at Torrey Pines, but the way he finished it may have been an omen. Able to play only 17 holes of his second round Friday because of fog, he was 2 over.

Unlike a half-dozen other players who also weren't going to make the cut and withdrew, Leonard showed up Saturday morning to finish his round -- by playing one hole.

He birdied the par 5 and said that he finished because he felt it was the right thing to do, adding, "Plus, look at all the momentum I gave myself for next week."

Leonard finished in the top 10 in just three tournaments last year and dropped to 42nd on the earnings list with $1.5 million. He failed to win a title for only the second time since 1996, and didn't qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time since turning pro.

Leonard started the final day of the Hope by sinking a pair of birdies that drew him into a tie when Ogilvie started with a bogey and a par. Ogilvie then bogeyed No. 3 and Leonard's par put him alone at the top, where he stayed.

Mickelson, who also won the title in 2002, shot himself out of contention when he hit into the water on the par-4 No. 13 and took a double bogey. His 71 left him tied for 12th at 21 under.

source


ESPN




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