Open Proves Again That It Is Not Over Until Final Putt Falls

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 23, 1998

L’Observateur / June 24, 1998

Golf is a crazy, unpredictable game.

For further proof, just ask Lee Janzen and Payne Stewart.

Those two proved at the U.S. Open that a golf tournament is never overuntil the final shot reaches the bottom of the cup, that no lead is too big, no deficit so large that it cannot be overcome. That the game can changeon one bounce or one puff of the wind.

Stewart led from day one of the tournament when he closed out the first round with birdies on the final three holes to take a one-stroke lead. Thatlead grew to seven shots over Janzen when Janzen started the final day with bogies on the second and third holes.

Janzen’s deficit looked like it would grow larger after his tee shot on the fifth hole found the branches of a tree. But a timely gust of wind blew theball down and Janzen managed to get up and down in four, holing a chip shot from the Olympic Club’s infamous rough for his par.

While Janzen was on a run that would see him shoot four-under over the last 14 holes to finish with a 68 for the day, Stewart was watching his lead slowly slip away in part to some luck of his own, albeit bad. His teeshot on the 12th looked to land in the middle of one of Olympic’s slanting fairways only to find a divot filled with sand. His next shot was into abunker and he ended up with a bogey on the hole.

Stewart and Janzen were both at even par as Stewart prepared to tee off on the 16th hole and Janzen on the 17th. Stewart’s third shot on the 16thlanded in a bunker and he failed to get up and down for par. Shortly after,Janzen parred the 17th for the first time in the tournament to take a one- shot lead.

Janzen finished his round by knocking in a two-foot putt for par on the 18th. Stewart almost evened the tournament as his chip shot from thefairway on 17th rolled to within three feet of the hole.

Needing a birdie on the par-4 18th hole to force a 18-hole playoff, Stewart placed his second shot 20 feet from the flag. His putt for birdielooked to be on its way in but curled left by inches, giving Janzen his second U.S. Open title. Coincidentally, his first came in 1993 under similarconditions by two shots over – who else? – Stewart.

Janzen’s victory also brought back comparisons to another U.S. Open playedat the Olympic Club in San Francisco – the 1966 Open when Billy Casper rallied from seven strokes down with nine to play to tie Arnold Palmer and force a playoff which he won.

This year’s Open had its share of storylines. Open officials had to begrinning mischievously as their course brought the best golfers in the world to their knees. Seeing the field fail to break par for the tournamentwas probably just what they were wishing for. How else to explain thesadistic hole placements and rough on the course? There was the story of Casey Martin, riding up the 18th fairway to a host of cheers on his way to finishing 11 shots behind the winner. AmateurMatt Kuchar challenging for the lead in his second straight major before his 20th birthday Sunday.

It was supposed to be an Open in which the young guns of the sport – Tiger Woods, David Duval, Justin Leonard, Ernie Els, Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson – challenged for the title. None of the above ever seriously madea run for the lead with Duval and Westwood finishing the highest at seven over par.

Instead it was Janzen and Stewart, both of whom have previously won an Open (Stewart won in 1989), that led the way, showing once again that golf can be the most unpredictable of games.

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