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He didn't need to. There were signs all

By Doug FergusonAssociated Press Published: June 22, 1998 12:00 AM

He didn't need to. There were signs all over The Olympic Club in the final round Sunday that made it obvious how it would end.

Only when Payne Stewart's 25-foot birdie putt to force a playoff slid by the hole on the 18th green did Janzen allow himself to believe.

"I guess it really didn't dawn on me that I could actually win the tournament until that moment," Janzen said.

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By playing the last 15 holes in 4-under while Payne Stewart was hanging on by the seat of his plus-fours, Janzen closed with a 2-under-par 68 on Sunday to win the U.S. Open, the only player to match par for 72 holes against formidable Olympic.

"Nobody in contention shot under part except Lee Janzen," said Stewart, whose 74 left him at 1-over 281 and one stroke behind. "He deserves to be the champion."

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Just five years ago, Janzen again combined rock-steady play, nerves of steel and a little luck at Baltusrol to win his first U.S. Open.

All the components were in place again on a day when Tom Lehman finished disappointed, Tiger Woods finished out of contention for the fifth straight major and Casey Martin finished making history in a cart.

Janzen's victim in 1993 also was Stewart, who at least had the lead this time, but not for long.

And then there's the tree.

At Baltusrol, Janzen was headed for double bogey when he risked hitting a 5-iron over a tree. He caught it low, the ball split through two branches and Janzen escaped with par.

He was lucky to get his ball back this time. After his tee shot didn't come down from the tree, Janzen turned around started back to the fifth tee to play another shot.

"I thought, 'This isn't right. My ball is stuck in a tree,"' Janzen said. "I'm going to be lucky to make a double."

He was lucky the wind picked up off the Pacific Ocean, jostling the ball loose into the rough. Janzen hacked it out to the fairway, flew the green into the first cut of rough and then chipped in for par.

Remember his chip-in at No. 16 that gave him control of the '93 Open?

"I started thinking," Janzen said. "Payne Stewart, a chip-in and a ball in the tree. Where have I heard this before?"

But the U.S. Open requires much more than a break or two. Janzen took the gift and repaid Olympic with perhaps the most grittiest final round of U.S. Open golf since Tom Kite beat the wind at Pebble Beach in 1992.

"My greatest emotion right now? I would say complete satisfaction that I went out and played my absolute best, and then won in the one championship I love more than any other," Janzen said.

After his improbable par at No. 5, Janzen never came close to another bogey. He made three birdies, all inside eight feet, and made a par on No. 17 after playing it in 5-over the first three rounds.

Stewart was trying to become the first player since Tony Jacklin to win the Open wire-to-wire. History also was on his side _ when Stewart won the Open in 1991 at Hazeltine, he had at least a share of the lead all four days.

He also had a solid game for four days, which wasn't the case Sunday.

A bogey on No. 12 when his best drive of the day landed in a sand-filled divot erased the last of his five-stroke lead. A bogey on No. 13 dropped him one behind.

Stewart made his only birdie of the day on No. 14, but gave it back two holes later and ran out of chances to make it up.

"Today, it was just a little bit off," Stewart said. "And in the game of golf, a little bit can be just enough."

Janzen was the only one to take advantage. Lehman, four strokes behind and playing in the final group in the U.S. Open for the fourth straight year, hit a spectator with his first shot of the day and never made birdie in a round of 75.

Bob Tway, the 1986 PGA Champion who also started the round four strokes behind, bogeyed the first two holes and was never a factor. Same for Nick Price.

"We were all in a position where we knew we had to go out and play a good round," Lehman said. "He's the only one who did it."

Martin rode up the 18th fairway in his cart to cheers and closed with a 72 to be at 291. Jack Nicklaus, who played in his first U.S. Open before all but six players in the field Sunday were even born, was at 295, one stroke better than defending champion Ernie Els.

Woods shot his 13th straight round in the 70s at a major championship and tied for 18th at 290.

And U.S. amateur champion Matt Kuchar celebrated his 20th birthday with a 74 that put him at 289. He'll try for his third straight top-25 finish next month in the British Open.

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