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The Players Championship
Sawgrass Stadium Course
Ponte Vedra Beach,
Florida
26th - 29th March 1998

Par 72 Prize Money $4 million

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Norman & Elkington withdraw

Leonard comes from five back to win by two shots

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 29th March 1998 - For the third time in less than a year, Leonard came from five strokes off the pace today to win, shooting a closing round 67 on the dangerous TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course to top Tom Lehman and Glen Day by two strokes.

"There wasn't a lot of pressure on me, being five back," Leonard said matter of factly after claiming the $720,000 first prize. "I'm a member here and I got a lot of member bounces."

The 25-year-old Leonard now has four victories on the PGA Tour, including his win at the British Open last year.

While Leonard was able to draw on his experience under fire to hold up down the stretch, Len Mattiace and Day -- two guys who have never won on the PGA Tour -- faltered under the pressure.

At one point on the back nine, Leonard, Day and Mattiace were tied at 9-under par. But consecutive bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 did in Day, and a quintuple-bogey 8 by Mattiace on the island-green 17th hole sank his chances.

Leonard finished at 10-under 278 with Tom Lehman, who closed with a 68, at 280 along with Day, who had a 71 today.

Lee Westood was the highest place European with a closing round of 69 to put him on 6-under 282 just four off the winner, picking up $146,000 for his tie in fifth place.

Tiger Woods, who insists his game will be ready for his title defense at The Masters in two weeks, closed with a 72 and finished tied for 35th at 2-over 290.

Leonard knows all about coming from five strokes back in the final round. He was five behind last year at the Kemper Open going to Sunday and shot a 67 to win. A month later at the British Open he started five back and shot a 65 to win.

While Leonard took home the largest paycheck on the PGA Tour, Mattiace cost himself $286,000 with his 8 - the difference between the $432,000 second-place money and the $146,000 he got for finishing tied for fifth.

He made $315,656 all of last year on tour.

"It's a lot of fun to be able to shoot a great round on Sunday," Leonard said. "Sometimes you get so involved in shooting low that you forget about winning the tournament."

Starting his day with a 10-foot eagle putt on No. 2, Leonard surged into the lead with five birdies in seven holes beginning on No. 9.

"Right there in the middle of the round I got hot," he said.

He curled a 30-foot birdie in the side door on No. 13 to take the lead alone and stretched the advantage to two strokes on the next hole with another 30-footer for birdie.

Still, with the dangerous closing stretch of Nos. 16, 17 and 18 wrapping around the water, potential disaster lurked.

Leonard made a good par on No. 15 after he hooked his drive into the trees, laid up in front of the green and chipped to 4 feet and made the putt.

At virtually the same time, Mattiace rolled in a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 16, and Leonard's lead was only one stroke.

But the drama was decided on No. 17 when Mattiace got over his tee shot on the 132-yard hole, backed off once then hit the ball over the green on a fly into the water.

After a penalty drop, Mattiace hit into the pot bunker then hit his shot thin out of the bunker and into the water again.

"When I hit the shot I thought I hit the shot I needed to hit," Mattiace said. "I guess I was a little pumped up. Obviously, I should have hit one less club."

For Leonard, who was a hole behind in the right rough on No. 16 and was sneaking peeks at Mattiace on No. 17, it was merely a matter of staying out of the water and victory would be his.

"I saw he was in the bunker," Leonard said, "and that he either left it in there or hit it over. When I saw him drop I knew he was having a rough hole."

When Leonard landed his tee shot on the 17th green safely he broke into a wide smile, knowing the tournament was all but his.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was that Lee Janzen, who started the final round three strokes ahead of Day and five better than Leonard, unraveled completely with a 79.

Janzen, the 1993 U.S. Open champion, has a reputation as a guy who knows how to protect a lead on Sunday. But he was wild with the driver in this final round and failed in his bid to get his first win since 1995. He also struggled on the greens, taking 36 putts.


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