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Justin Leonard hoping to keep streak going

Justin Leonard was not quite ready to be fitted for a green jacket following his victory at the Bob Hope Classic on Sunday, although he was thinking his chances of winning the year's first major had significantly improved.

The last two Bob Hope champions, Phil Mickelson (2004) and Mike Weir (2003), followed up by landing the U.S. Masters title and Leonard sees no reason why that trend should not continue.

"I would say it's coincidence, but look at the two players who won this tournament the previous two years," said Leonard after ending a two-year victory drought with a three-stroke win over fellow American Joe Ogilvie and South African Tim Clark.

"Two pretty good players that probably set up pretty well for Augusta. I love playing Augusta. I'm looking very much forward to it.

"I certainly hope to keep that stream alive. I may write that in my yardage book to give me a little boost of confidence."

A notoriously slow starter, coming off a below-par 2004 campaign and playing only his second event with new golf equipment, not much was expected from Leonard at the five-day, 90-hole marathon played over four courses at La Quinta, California.

After failing to make the cut last week at the Buick Invitational, the 1997 British Open champion strung together five solid rounds to post his ninth career win.

"Missing the cut by however many I did, I knew that I was going to be pretty rusty at Torrey Pines," said Leonard, whose previous PGA Tour victory came at the 2003 Honda Classic.

"It was my first tournament in a couple of months, and playing with some new equipment, and I knew I'd be rusty.

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

"After the year that I had last year, struggling, but yet still ending the year I felt with some momentum...I was really looking forward to this year, and a lot of that was probably because I had so much time off.

"I didn't play a tournament for a couple of months, and I think that certainly showed in my game last week. But fortunately, I was able to get most of the rust off and come here."

With his wife expecting their second child in April, Leonard was relieved to get a win early to relieve the pressure and enjoy the new addition to his family.

"It certainly takes some pressure off, which I enjoy doing," said Leonard. "I enjoy taking pressure off myself because I'm usually a little more relaxed and have a little more fun and those kind of things.

"I just know that I've been sitting on eight tournaments for almost two years, and it's nice to get a ninth."


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