Leonard Hope-ful

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

Justin Leonard is a sucker for golf tradition, and he's particularly intrigued by the recent relationship between winners of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Masters.

Two years ago, Mike Weir, coming off a disappointing 2002 season, came to Palm Springs and won the Bob Hope. Two months later won the Masters.

Last year Phil Mickelson, also coming off a lousy season in 2003, won the Hope and the Masters.

See where we're going with this, Justin?

"I'm tempted to say it's coincidence," said Leonard, after he won the 2005 Hope Classic yesterday, also coming off one of his worst years in 2004. "Those are two pretty good players who set up well for Augusta.

"But I'm going to write it in my yardage book anyway. That's a great thought to take with me to Augusta. I love playing there and I'd love to keep that stream alive."

In the end, the final round yesterday at windy PGA West had all the drama of a Formula 1 race -- one early pass and then a whole lot of mind-numbing nothing.

That's probably a great credit to Leonard, who snatched control of the game right off the first tee and owned it all the way around the golf course. He staged a clinic on how to win a golf tournament.

But it sure doesn't make for entertaining golf.

Leonard cruised to a final-round 67 and never was challenged down the stretch on his way to a three-shot victory for his ninth PGA Tour victory but first in nearly two years.

South African Tim Clark and Joe Ogilvie tied for second at 25 under. Loren Roberts and Peter Lonard were another stroke back at 24 under.

Ogilvie, who led or shared the lead at the end of play on four consecutive days, couldn't handle the pressure when the tournament was on the line on Day 5 and finds himself still looking for his first victory.

He led by two shots over Lonard and three over Leonard at the start but, in the blink of an eye, found himself out of the lead to stay.

"Justin played well," Ogilvie said. "He put Peter and I under the gun and we weren't up to it. I had a front row seat to see a great round of golf. I learned a lot about how you handle a lead."

Leonard, with Ogilvie as a co-conspirator, managed to suck every ounce of drama from this final round in the first 40 minutes of play.

Ogilvie started the round three shots ahead of Leonard but, after two holes, Leonard had erased that deficit with a pair of birdies and Ogilvie's opening bogey.

When Leonard birdied the third hole he took over the lead and never relinquished more than a share of it the rest of the way.

When he made birdie at the seventh, he took over top spot all by himself and held it alone the rest of the way.

At the 10th hole, Ogilvie lost a ball in the water and made a double bogey while Leonard was making the first of back-to-back birdies that would give him a four-stroke advantage.

"The tournament was over when I hit it in the water at 10," Ogilvie said.

Leonard, like Weir and Mickelson before him, is coming off a year where he finished 42nd on the money list and missed a berth in the Tour Championship for the first time in 10 years. His previous win was almost two years ago, at the Honda Classic.

PRESSURE IS OFF

"I know I've been sitting on eight (wins) for almost two years and it's nice to get a ninth," he said. "I don't really want to think about what it means yet, though. It certainly takes some pressure off to win this early. It will also inspire me to the extent that I know I'm going to be thinking 'One is not enough.'

"Any win is important, whether it's with your buddies at home or a tournament like this.

"Even though I struggled last year, I've been looking forward to the start of this one because I could feel some momentum building at the end of last year."

Stephen Ames, of Calgary, the only Canadian to survive to play yesterday, managed a final round of even-par 72 to finish in a six-way tie for 42nd place.


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