Janzen claims Open with shot of lifetime Rides rough on 16 to 2-stroke victory

June 21, 1993|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- They were rushing Lee Janzen off the 18th green, past the old clubhouse and into a different life as the sun broke through the haze.

Surrounded by 13 New Jersey State troopers, Janzen looked like he was a candidate for a witness protection program. Fans shouted his name. His wife, Beverly, hugged him and wept. But Janzen kept moving, kept holding the silver trophy that marked him the best golfer in America.

"I never knew if I had it in me," he would say later, choking back the tears.

"I gave it my best every step of the way."

Janzen's best was good enough to win the 93rd U.S. Open golf championship yesterday at Baltusrol Golf Club.

In a final-round performance that transformed him from just another28-year-old millionaire in spikes to a major marquee player, Janzen put away his closest pursuer, Payne Stewart, and the field, shooting 1-under par 69 to finish at 8-under 272.

He hit a drive off a tree. He hit an iron through a forest. And he hit another iron over a water hazard, past a bunker and onto the final green to survive the toughest tournament of them all.

But it was a 30-foot chip-in birdie from the rough at the par-3 16th that will remain Janzen's signature in history.

Call it The Shot.

And give him the title.

"I don't even think I could dream this big," said Janzen, a four-year tour veteran with three victories.

His winning score tied the Open record established by Jack Nicklaus at Baltusrol in 1980. Janzen also became only the second player to break 70 in all four Open rounds, scoring two 67s and two 69s. Only Lee Trevino in 1968 had accomplished such a feat.

"To perform at my absolute best in the most important week of the year is incredible," Janzen said. "A lot of guys have a lot better games than me. For me to win is the over-achievement of my life."

Stewart, the 1991 Open champion who patiently and defiantly stalked Janzen every inch of the way in the final round, shot par 70 to finish at 6-under 274.

Craig Parry of Australia, closing with a 2-under 68, and Paul Azinger, shooting a 1-under 69, tied for third at 3-under 277.

But for the final three days on Baltusrol's long, tricky and somewhat tedious Lower Course, this was Janzen's tournament.

Never before had he survived an Open cut, but he grabbed hold of the lead in the second round and never let go.

"Winning a major was not a goal,"he said. "I just wanted to give myself a chance."

xTC Janzen had to survive a harrowing last round, making the turn with a 1-shot lead over Stewart.

"I thought to myself, 'Just play those nine holes the best I ever played in my life,' " he said.

Janzen refused to buckle.

"The man, he just stood up there and he did it," Stewart said. "He deserves all the credit in the world. He's a true champion."

Janzen gave this gallery a show. Banging an approach shot through trees to save a par at the 10th. Walking away from a bogey at the 12th that put him into a tie at 5-under with Stewart, and then, snaking in an 18-foot birdie at 14 to give himself a second wind and a 6-under lead.

And then came history, the par-3 16th.

Janzen sent his tee shot long, but the ball sat up in the rough 30 feet above the cup.

When Stewart, on the green and 40 feet away, gave him the honor to shoot, Janzen went for the birdie with the wedge.

And he got it.

This was like Tom Watson chipping in from the rough at the 17th to win the 1982 Open at Pebble Beach. Janzen was just a kid then, watching his golfing idol on television and leaping up in his family's living room and nearly hitting a ceiling fan.

Now it was more than a decade later, but this time it was Janzen on the course going for a title and Watson in a press tent, breaking off an interview, turning to a television set and saying, "Let me see that."

"I just felt, somehow, maybe it was destined," Janzen said. "I got some of the greatest breaks."

He was running the table, now. Slamming a tee shot off 17 that hit a tree and bounced back into the fairway.

Then playing it brilliantly and safely at 18, finding himself caught in a terrible lie off the tee and nudging the ball 60 yards with a wedge rather than risking a dip into the water 140 yards away.

"I knew that if I hit it in the water,it would be the dumbest decision in golf history," he said.

Janzen shot a 4-iron over the water and a bunker to eight feet from the cup, and this Open was his.

He watched Stewart make one last birdie and then he made one of his own, grabbing a piece of Nicklaus' record.

And he said he knew almost instantly, that his life was changed.

The kid who grew up playing baseball, who lived in Westminster, Md., from 1971 to 1976, who took his first golf swings on the Western Maryland College golf course before his family headed for Florida, had grown into an Open champion.

Stewart gave him a hug and later said, "Lee will remember this moment for a long, long time."

And Janzen waded through the crowd to his wife. They hugged and wept.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.