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At 50, Justin Leonard Is Back On the Course and Trying to Dial Up the Old Intensity – Sports Illustrated

ST. LOUIS — No question about it, things have changed.

The last time Justin Leonard felt the need to be “golf intensive” was almost seven years ago. At the time he was many years removed from his British Open win, his sp…….

ST. LOUIS — No question about it, things have changed.

The last time Justin Leonard felt the need to be “golf intensive” was almost seven years ago. At the time he was many years removed from his British Open win, his spectacular Ryder Cup putt, the last of his 12 PGA Tour wins and a place among the elite players in the game.

But as 2015 began, Leonard was still more into playing golf than talking about it. Things flipped, times changed.

After moving his family to Aspen, Colorado, after making 13 PGA Tour starts without a top 10 during the 2015-16 season, after missing the FedEx Cup playoffs, Leonard tried a new grip. He quit holding a golf club and started clutching a microphone, becoming an analyst for Golf Channel.

The work is rewarding, the compensation reliable and he has no regrets. What he does have, however, is the itch, the sensation that grabs everyone who ever hit a green in regulation, drained a putt for birdie and cheated par. The fascination that never—entirely—goes away.

So, having turned 50 in June, Leonard is in St. Louis this week, hitting balls, rolling putts, checking yardages, getting sweaty. He is preparing to compete in the Champions Tour Ascension Charity Classic, poised to turn back the clock, getting golf intensive.

“I worked the three FedEx Cup playoff events (on TV),” Leonard said. “I got home for a couple days in between, right before the Tour Championship, and basically drove from the airport, dropped my suitcase off, kissed my wife and went to the golf course.

“And then the last 10 days or so, I was home working really hard but also trying to play, get out on the golf course. I think that was one of the things I wasn’t able to do as much in my lead-in for my first event. So (I’m trying) to get on the golf course and hit different shots and those kind of things, and kind of get back into the mindset of what I need to do to get my game ready.”

Leonard’s “lead-in” was sticking his toe in the waters at the Senior Players Championship in early July. He tied for 61st in Akron, Ohio, then went back to his regularly scheduled programming and the PGA Tour’s season-ending playoffs. Now that he has crossed that bridge, and completed those television responsibilities, he is ready to embrace the game he put behind.

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Source: https://www.si.com/golf/news/at-50-justin-leonard-is-back-on-the-course-and-trying-to-dial-up-the-old-intensity

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