Originally created 09/25/00

Leonard wins first Texas Open



SAN ANTONIO -- Justin Leonard told himself it would be OK if he didn't win the Texas Open. It wouldn't be the end of the world.

"But boy, it'd sure be nice," thought Leonard, who hadn't won a PGA title since 1998.

He put an end to his drought Sunday by shooting a 6-under-par 64 to beat Mark Wiebe by five strokes.

"It's a big relief," said Leonard, who twice finished second at the Texas Open, in 1995 and 1998. He skipped the tournament last year for the Ryder Cup.

"I don't read a lot of golf magazines. I don't watch a lot of golf on television. But I know that I haven't won in two and a half years," he said. "It's nice. It's like a little burden lifted, not that I went out every week thinking about it."

At the 1998 Texas Open, Leonard bogeyed the final two holes to lose to Hal Sutton by one stroke.

"I just wasn't able to close the deal," he said. "This year and today, I was very determined not to let that happen. If I was going to get beaten, then somebody was going to have to beat me. But I wasn't going to beat myself."

Sunday's victory was Leonard's first since the 1998 Players Championship.

Entering the final round with a two-stroke lead over Wiebe, Leonard had seven birdies against one bogey to finish with a 19-under total of 261.

Leonard played college golf at the University of Texas about 70 miles north in Austin and enjoyed a crowd-favorite status during the tournament at La Cantera Golf Club on the edge of the Texas Hill Country. He earned $468,000 with the victory, his first in his home state.

"I think he was going to play the same way no matter what. We could've been in Timbuktu," Wiebe said.

Wiebe, a 20-year tour veteran who has not won since 1986, kept pace with Leonard for most the round with five birdies, but couldn't close the gap. Leonard birdied No. 18 while Wiebe faltered with his only bogey of the day.

Leonard started the round at 13-under and was 15-under after nine holes with birdies on Nos. 2, 5 and 8. Wiebe kept it close with birdies on Nos. 4, 8, 11 and 12, but Leonard maintained the lead by playing the back nine 4-under.

"Anytime I got any mojo going at all, he silenced me with a birdie," Wiebe said.

After he rolled in his final birdie, prompting a shout of "Go Longhorn" from the gallery, Leonard pumped his fist in the air as a mariachi band began to play on the 18th green.

"It was fun walking up 18 knowing I could get a 5 or 6 or whatever it took. It was a great end to the week," Leonard said. "Hopefully I won't wait as long to get another one."

Wiebe, who also finished second to Leonard at the 1997 Kemper Open, finished with 266. His previous best finish this season was a tie for 15th at the MCI Classic.

Jim Gallagher Jr. and Blaine McCallister tied for third at 269.

Gallagher, who shot a 64 in the third round to jump from 23rd place to fourth, shot a final-round 68.

The 17-year tour veteran, who last won in 1995, lost his playing privileges in 1999 and has competed in only 11 PGA tournaments this year. His best finish this season was a tie for 30th at the Greater Milwaukee Open.

McCallister, who last won in 1993, began the day in third place at 10-under, but struggled, hitting a double-bogey on the par-4 fifth hole and two more bogeys against five birdies.