June 11, 2007

As slump continues, Leonard eyes change

For Justin Leonard, the need for wholesale change has arrived. Thirteen months removed from his last top-10 finish, Leonard recently ended a six-year association with swing instructor Butch Harmon and has also terminated the services of mental coach Gio Valiente. A new caddie? Leonard has one of those, too, as the 1997 British Open champion searches for an end to the longest and most pronounced slump of his 13-year career.

Since winning the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January 2005, Leonard has tumbled from 16th to 220th in the World Ranking. After missing six consecutive cuts to begin 2007, enough was enough. "I need to get back to being more of a feel player," Leonard said. "I've gotten a little caught up in the [mechanics of] the golf swing."

With an eye on a past that also counts the 1998 Players Championship among his 10 victories, Leonard will reunite with Randy Smith, his childhood swing coach who was on the job until Leonard switched to Harmon. "We had a good chat," Leonard said. "[Harmon] understood, but it's still hard."

As for the clutter that has gathered between his ears, Leonard has scheduled a meeting this week with renowned sport psychologist Dr. Richard Coop. It won't come a day too soon -- the little Texan made his first cut of the year at Bay Hill, then shot 79-78 on the weekend for a share of 75th.