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US Open countdown: Lee Janzen’s win in 1993 reminiscent of his idol Tom Watson

93rd U.S. Open | June 17-20, 1993

Baltusrol Golf Club Lower Course, Springfield, N.J.

Leaderboard

Lee Janzen, United States 67 - 67 - 69 - 69 272
Payne Stewart, United States 70 - 66 - 68 - 70 274
Paul Azinger, United States 71 - 68 - 69 - 69 277
Craig Parry, Australia 66 - 74 - 69 - 68 277
Scott Hoch, United States 66 - 72 - 72 - 68 278
Tom Watson, United States 70 - 66 - 73 - 69 278

Lee Janzen was short on track record — he chose to attend NCAA Division II Florida Southern where he won a national title in 1986 — but was big on dreams.

One of them was to match the U.S. Open record of his idol Tom Watson.

The way he won this national open not only reminded the large gallery at Baltusrol of Watson’s U.S. Open-winning chip shot from behind the 17th green at the 1982 championship — it rang true with Watson himself.

In a head-to-head duel for much of the final round with Payne Stewart, Janzen grabbed control of this U.S. Open by holing out a 30-foot chip shot for birdie at the 16th hole to grab a two-stroke advantage.

Watson, who tied for fifth, was with the press corps when he interrupted an interview to watch Janzen’s tournament-clinching chip shot.

“That’s pretty poignant,” Watson said out loud with reporters around.

Even Janzen said he saw the similarities between his chip shot, and Watson’s miraculous shot to beat Jack Nicklaus in 1982.

“Tom Watson … was the guy I always cheered for,” Janzen told reporters afterward. “My parents had a ceiling fan that was about 12 feet high in the living room. When he made that shot at Pebble Beach, I jumped so high I hit that fan.”

With the tournament in his grasp, Janzen air-mailed a 4-iron third shot at the finishing par 5 that was knocked down by a gust of wind 8 feet right of the hole. He made a final birdie to tie a pair of U.S. Open marks:

Janzen’s 272 total matched Nicklaus’ tournament scoring record, set in 1980. In fact, all three career scoring marks up to that point were set on this layout.

Janzen also became the second golfer to post four U.S. Open rounds in the 60s. Lee Trevino was the first to do it in 1968 at Oak Hill.

It was a disheartening two weeks of tournaments for Stewart, the 1991 U.S. Open winner. He was defeated the week before at the Memorial Tournament on a Paul Azinger holeout from a greenside bunker.

And then this Janzen chip shot ruined his U.S. Open bid.

Janzen’s 18-foot birdie putt at the 14th hole Sunday broke a tie with Stewart.

“I just never knew I had it in me to do it,” Janzen said.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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