School of hard knocks motivates Leggatt

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

Ian Leggatt of Cambridge has a knack for sneaking under the radar when he takes a step forward.

If all goes accordingly, Leggatt will resume his PGA Tour career after grinding through six rounds at the final stage of qualifying school, which begins Wednesday.

You may recall Leggatt winning his first tour event on Feb 24, 2002, but then again, maybe not.

Even diehard golf fans would be forgiven for briefly turning their attention to Olympic hockey that day when Canada ended a 50-year drought by winning gold.

Had Leggatt not been busy winning the Tucson Open, he would likely have been glued to the game himself, but accomplished something pretty significant that day.

There was no Olympic hockey game to steal his thunder just over a week ago, but Leggatt was operating on a stage not nearly as grand as the one where he got his first tour win.

He shot respectable rounds of 70-70-71, but flirted with disaster when he posted a final round 75 to tie for 19th, when only the top 20 and ties advance.

"I shot 41 on the first nine holes. I hit it over a couple of greens and I had a couple of three-putts and the next thing you know, I was five over par," said Leggatt, adding that the inflated score was not indicative of his play.

"I really didn't play that badly. I had been hitting it pretty good. I hadn't really been putting very good the whole week, but my ball-striking was really good,'' he added.

"I had to shoot under par my next nine because after my first nine holes, I was back to even par (for the tournament),'' said Leggatt, who thought one-under might get him through. Aided by an eagle on the 15th hole, he finished two-under to advance to the final stage.

Once again, Leggatt flew under the radar into Q-school after earning an exemption through the first stage thanks to his previous PGA Tour experience. After several health issues, including a nasty battle with carpal tunnel syndrome in his left wrist, Leggatt found himself on the Nationwide Tour this season.

He played four PGA Tour events, missing the cut in each, and things didn't get much better on the Nationwide Tour, where he missed the cut in 13 of 19 events and withdrew from another to finish 151st on the money list.

"My short game has been terrible all year, my putting's been terrible,'' said Leggatt.

"There are days when I go out and I shoot one or two-over par and it should be two or three-under par and, on the other side, I was shooting three or four-under par and it should be better than that. I just wasn't competing very well because my putting hasn't been very good.

"My ball-striking hasn't been exactly where I wanted it to be. That always used to hold me up when I wasn't putting all that great. Now, I'm back hitting it really well again and driving the ball great. I just need to putt a little bit better. I've been working really hard on my short game these last three or four weeks.''

Leggatt now has the opportunity to make one of those sudden reversals of fortune so common in golf, but the six rounds of the final stage is renowned for being a minefield. With his health a non-factor and a renewed confidence in his game, Leggatt says he will draw on his experience.

"Guys think that it's a long week, but I never take any time off. I play golf every day. Playing nine days in a row, for a lot of guys, is a lot. I play and hit balls every day, so it's not any different than any other week for me,'' said Leggatt, who feels the second stage is more difficult than the final stage.

"There's no doubt (final stage) is stressful, but I don't think it's really any different than any other tournament for me, mentally anyway.

"I think, for a lot of guys who have never played on tour before, it's even more stressful because they're so close to having an opportunity to play on the PGA Tour and that adds a little bit more (pressure) than the guy who has already been there.''

Leggatt is a guy who wants to be back there and if it's mission accomplished by this time next week, it's unlikely he'll sneak under the radar of Canadian fans.


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