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The Liberation of Justin Leonard

Amanda, 30, is a slim, attractive woman with a big, pearly smile and Scandinavian features. She lacks, however, the ditzy, narcissistic personality that often accompanies such an appearance and instead comes across as thoughtful and well grounded. In part, perhaps, these qualities stem from more than a half-dozen years in a serious career, first in Atlanta at CNN Online, then in Dallas at Broadcast.com, the company that generated Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's wealth. She is also an accomplished athlete. She grew up in Florida playing tennis and riding horses and in recent years has completed two marathons.

Golf was not part of her universe until a couple of years ago, but she has been a quick study. "Uh-oh, that must have been a really bad shot," she interjected into our conversation at one point, eyeing Leonard several hundred yards up the fairway. "I can tell by the way he's pouting. See how he's kind of slumping and looking down at the ground?" When Leonard plays well he appears more relaxed. "He has this little strut he does," she said, and tried to imitate it: chin up, lower lip out, an exaggerated bounce in her step. "It's really cute," she added, laughing.

Since they were married, Amanda has traveled with Leonard to every tournament he has played in and has walked every round. Despite this exposure to her husband on the course—or perhaps because of it—she cannot understand the impression some people have that Leonard is arrogant. "Nothing could be further from the truth," she said, not so much defensively as out of bafflement. I myself had walked with Leonard during the pro-am the day before and could see how bogus the rap would seem to someone who knows him well. He was constantly saying things like "Yes, sir," "No, sir" and "Watch your step here" to his partners, and tossing off exceedingly dry wisecracks. (For example, when his surgeon partner was having trouble working a point-and-shoot camera, Leonard quietly remarked to the doctor's wife, "But he's good in the operating room.") Maybe, I suggested, the reason for Leonard's remote image is simply that he doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve the way crowd favorites like Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman do. They seem to need—or at least to enjoy—involving the fans in their personal dramas. "Justin doesn't even seem to notice the gallery," I said.

Amanda didn't disagree with my theory—except for the part about Leonard not noticing the crowd. She said she sometimes jokingly calls her husband Justin "Doesn't Miss a Thing" Leonard. "He's very aware," she said. "If I eat a cookie on the sixteenth hole, that night he'll ask me what kind of cookie I was eating on the sixteenth hole." It may be closer to the truth to say simply that Leonard is emotionally self-sufficient.

Amanda does acknowledge, however, the accuracy of Leonard's reputation as a neat freak. "He definitely likes things clean," she told me. "It drives him crazy to have dishes sitting in the sink unwashed. Even if we have guests over, he'll do the dishes while they're still there. But it's not like he's weird or obsessive about it." You get the sense, talking to Amanda, that Leonard is driven more by the need to get things done now than by finickiness, and that's the view of Leonard's father as well. "Justin has always been goal oriented. If he gets something on his list, he goes after it until it's done—almost to a fault," Larry Leonard told me.

You can see this trait at work in many areas of Leonard's life. Case in Point One: After he had proposed to Amanda in Telluride a little over a year after their first trip to that mountain village, he decided to buy a condo for them there and would not leave town until the deal was finalized. Case in Point Two: When Amanda started training to run in the 2001 New York City marathon, Leonard got it into his head to run a marathon himself, as a show of support. "There wasn't any stopping him," Amanda said, shaking her head. "We wrote out a schedule for him on a list, and he never varied from it." Leonard completed the White Rock marathon in Dallas in December 2001, two months before their wedding, in a respectable three hours and fifty-five minutes, then said he will never run another one.


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