The playoff loss in Phoenix represented Leonard's third runner-up finish in barely two years. In the process he has demonstrated that while his game is not the most captivating on the Tour, it is among the most complete. He won't try to hit a high two-iron over water and stop it dead. He knows if he's good enough with a wedge and putter, he doesn't have to try that shot. Such discernment is almost unheard of in a player so young. "A lot of guys get intimidated by the big names and long hitters and think they have to try to do things they aren't capable of," Lanny Wadkins says. "What I like is the control he plays with. He stays within himself, probably beyond his years."
That control is a function, typically, of meticulous preparation. The week before Tucson, on a bleak January afternoon in Dallas, Leonard walked out of the Royal Oaks pro shop and announced he was heading to the practice tee. Never mind that there was two inches of snow and ice on the ground and the wind was howling. Leonard parked his Land Rover so it would block the wind. Then he chiseled away so he would have some turf from which to hit. He hit balls for more than an hour. The next day the weather was even worse. So he hit balls for only 45 minutes.
If Leonard feels the pressure of being due for a win, it isn't apparent. Outwardly, he is certain that he is on schedule. "I'm ready," he says. "Before, I didn't quite have the confidence. Maybe I would think, 'Do I really deserve to win this?' or 'Second place would be nice.' Those thoughts aren't entering my mind anymore. Way down deep, I'm sure of it."
No doubt, he has written it down.