Sounds like Leonard is describing his own game. "It's the way I try to play," he says. "It doesn't always work out."
Colin Montgomerie has been working out, and the svelte Scot will arrive at the Open as a favorite to win, as always, thanks to his driving, which is as straight as six o'clock, and his iron play, which ranks among the world's finest. Montgomerie is only 34, though he qualifies as an old-timer if for no other reason than he seems to have been around forever. This is partly because he has been chasing history so doggedly. Since 1927 only one European has won America's national championship—Tony Jacklin, at Hazeltine 28 years ago.
"In Europe we never, never play under U.S. Open conditions, or anything even close," says Sweden's Jesper Parnevik, who finished 61st at the Kemper. "So when you come to the U.S. Open, there's a lot of intimidation on every tee shot. It's almost as if there's water left and water right." Every year the Tour conducts tournaments on three Open courses—Colonial, Riviera and Pebble Beach—and a number of others that fit the archetype, including Spyglass Hill, Harbour Town, Westchester and Cog Hill. But overcoming the fear of anorexic fairways is only part of the battle for the Europeans. "The U.S. Open doesn't let you scramble," says Parnevik, citing a skill at which European tour players are thought to be superior to their U.S. counterparts. "There's no finesse around the greens. Everything is trying to blast the ball out of the long rough. That takes a lot of the creativity out of the short game."
Then there's this: "We feel we're jinxed," Parnevik says. This bad mojo is what haunts Montgomerie. After all, the flip side to the value of experience is that in golf, most experiences are bad ones.
Montgomerie's opposite number in Europe is Lee Westwood, the insouciant 25-year-old from England who has been tearing up the tour over there this season. Last year Westwood finished an encouraging 19th in his first U.S. Open, and after making the cut in all four majors (only 16 players did it in '97), he has pronounced the Open as the one that best suits his game, not surprising because he's a crack driver and fearless on the greens. What does Westwood like about the Open? "The challenge," he says. "It's interesting to play the narrow fairways, the rough, the hard, fast greens." To that list he could add the swirling winds at Olympic and the tempestuous weather of south San Francisco.
Sounds like Armageddon, if not Armageddon. That upcoming release features two movie stars from different generations trying to save the world: stalwart Bruce Willis and fresh-faced Ben Affleck. At this year's U.S. Open the old guard led by Montgomerie and Watson will have to contend with shooting stars like Els, Leonard and Westwood.
Trying to predict a golf tournament's winner is folly, but it says here that Bruce's contemporaries aren't ready to relinquish the spotlight yet and that they've found the right course on which to make their stand.