|Justin on his victory
"It seemed as though standing on the 18th green at Royal Troon, in the late afternoon shadows and sunlight holding the Silver Claret Jug, everything had come together. I will always remember the emotion I experienced when my thoughts turned to my family, friends, teacher,golf competitors and history. All the experiences that I had gained from each of those seemed to meet in that place at that time on the 18th green. Maybe they were bottled up in that silver jug, and as I was fortunate
to get my hands on it and realizing it was mine, I was
rewarded with the feeling of being at the center of all
those things that I wanted, worked for and dreamed."
1997 Open Championship
Justin came to Troon on a roll, having won the Kemper Open
six weeks earlier and posting top-5 finishes in his two events
prior to the British Open (T5 at FedEx St. Jude Classic and
T3 at Motorola Western Open). Feeling comfortable heading
into the week, Justin liked the golf course and spent considerable
time during his practice rounds studying the differences between
the front nine and back nine. He came to the event solo, with
no family and friends, and was extremely focused without some
Leonard eagled No. 6 en route to an opening 2-under-par 69.
Playing a later tee time, he noticed several players 5- or
6-under on the front nine because it was straight downwind.
On the back nine, players were struggling.
With a 2-under on the front nine, Leonard was a little disappointed, but managed to shoot even par on the back nine in tough conditions,
despite not hitting a green.
Leonard switched from a wooden-headed driver to a metal one,
adding as much as 20 yards to his tee shots and took advantage
of calm conditions to fire a 5-under-par 66 and move within
two shots of midway leader, Darren Clarke. His round included
two eagles, on hole Nos. 4 and 6 (for second day in a row),
giving him three for the tournament. On both of his eagles
today, he hit 5-iron into the green. A missed five-footer
on No. 18 for bogey kept Leonard from closing to within one
shot of the 36-hole lead.
Playing with 36-hole leader Darren Clarke, Leonard wasn't
as solid as the previous day, but hung in for an even-par
round. After a birdie on No. 17, he looked at the scoreboard
and noticed he would be paired with Fred Couples the next
day and felt it would be a big advantage. Leonard felt Couples
was a good partner because of his "been there, done that"
attitude in that situation of contending for a major and his
relaxing style of play.
Leonard began the day five strokes behind the leader, Jesper
Parnevik, and trailed Parnevik by two shots with five holes
to play. His five-shot comeback tied the best fourth-round
rally in British Open history, by Jim Barnes in 1925. He became
the youngest British Open champion since 22-year-old Seve
Ballesteros won in 1979. Over the first nine holes, seven
of his pitch shots landed within 15 feet of the cup. He birdied
three of the final four holes on the front side, pitching
to four feet on No. 6,two-and-a-half feet on No. 7 and six
feet on No. 9 to pull within one shot of the lead.
by two shots with five holes to play, but down the stretch,
he ran home putts of 15 feet to save par on No. 15, from 15
feet again for birdie on No. 16 and from 30 feet on No. 17
for his final and decisive birdie of the day.