Golf: Cool Stewart swoops for second title

US Open: Experienced campaigner's last hole putt beats Mickelson to erase last year's disappointment
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The Independent Online
FOR THE man who believes par is a great score on any hole at any time in a US Open, Payne Stewart made the best par he is ever likely to in winning his national championship for the second time. Stewart, who won his previous title in an 18-hole play-off in 1991, missed a birdie chance at the last to force extra holes against Lee Janzen a year ago.

On the 18th green at Pinehurst's No 2 course, Stewart faced an 18-footer for par to prevent going round for another 18 holes against Phil Mickelson today. The 42-year-old American made it, just as he had converted vital putts at the previous two holes to come back from one behind with three to play.

Mickelson, the expectant dad on Father's Day, closed with a level par 70 to finish one ahead of Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh. But Stewart also scored a 70 to be the only player to finish in red figures at one under.

A damp day of occasional showers moistened the greens just enough to offer the odd birdie chance and create a thrilling finale on a course that was still playing brutally tough. Ultimately, despite the other fine players in contention, it came down to a head-to-head duel between the players in the final grouping.

Stewart bogeyed the 15th to drop one behind but the next proved classic matchplay. Both missed the green but while Stewart made his par from 25 feet, Mickelson missed from eight for his first bogey of the day.

The left-hander, who said he would have left the course had his wife Amy gone into labour and beeped him, looked like he was going to get up and down all day. But his putter let him down in the end. When both players hit close at the par-three 17th, it was Stewart that holed and Mickelson that missed.

But Stewart drove into the rough at the last, had to chop up the fairway and pitched on to leave himself a putt for the trophy. "I hit a lot of great putts all day and I just wanted to give myself a chance," an elated Stewart said. "I could never give up because Phil played unbelievably well. He will have opportunities to win the US Open but this may have been my last."

Stewart had held onto his overnight lead for the entire front nine, extending it to two shots when he started birdie, bogey, birdie but seeing it cut back to one when Mickelson birdied the seventh from 30 feet. Stewart then dropped shots at the 10th and 12th to fall one behind but then got back into a share of the lead by birdieing the 13th.

At this stage other players still had an interest, particularly Tiger Woods. The 23-year-old got within one of the lead with his second birdie in two holes at the 16th. When the 15-footer disappeared, Woods pumped his fist and knew this was his best chance so far to add to his 1997 Masters win. But he found a bunker at the short 17th and, although he came out to four feet, his par putt rimmed the hole and stayed up. Just as at Royal Birkdale in the last Open, Woods had a 30-footer at the 18th but this one just missed. A 70 for his best finish in a US Open was no consolation.

Singh, the USPGA champion, birdied the eighth and 10th to get to level par and the only blemish in his 69 was a dropped shot at the 16th. But David Duval, the world No 1, wasted a fine opportunity after he got to level by birdieing the second and third by collapsing to a 75 to finish seven over.

Darren Clarke, at eight over after a 71, finished as low European in 10th place. It was a fine fightback after taking four putts to get down from off the green at the second, where he took a double-bogey six. "I am very pleased," Clarke said. "I liked the course as soon as I saw it and my game improved as the week went on. When you think where I was eight weeks ago, I have put in a lot of hard work and have got my game back on track."

A 72 from Colin Montgomerie left the Scot on 10 over. A 12-foot birdie putt at the last meant he left Pinehurst with a standing ovation from the gallery. "It was a nice way to finish. I am happy with my game, it just didn't click this week," he said.

At least Monty will be back. John Daly threatened not to return after his patience snapped on the eighth hole where he took an 11. Over the green in two, when his second attempt to putt up started to roll back down, the "Wild Thing" hit the ball on the move for a two-shot penalty.

Daly took four more to get down in an 83, finishing at 29 over par despite the fact he was leading during the first round. "The US Open is just not John Daly's style of golf," he said. "The USGA try to embarrass the players. All credit to whoever wins, but I don't consider the US Open a major any more.

"From now on, my majors are the British Open, the USPGA, the Masters and the Tour Championship. I don't know if I want to waste my time going to Pebble Beach next year. I don't want to see the USGA spoil that course as well."

FINAL TOTALS AND PRIZE MONEY

US unless stated, par 70

279

P Stewart 68 69 72 70 (pounds 388,319)

280

P Mickelson 67 70 73 70 (pounds 229,885)

281

V Singh (Fiji) 69 70 73 69, T Woods 68 71 72 70 (pounds 124,422 each)

285

S Stricker 70 73 69 73 (pounds 82,755)

286

T Herron 69 72 70 75 (pounds 73,375)

287

H Sutton 69 70 76 72, J Maggert 71 69 74 73, D Duval 67 70 75 75

288

D Clarke (GB) 73 70 74 71, B Mayfair 67 72 74 75

289

P Azinger 72 72 75 70, D Love 70 73 74 72, P Goydos 67 74 74 74

290

C Montgomerie (GB) 72 72 74 72, J Leonard 69 75 73 73

291

D Hart 73 73 76 69, J Furyk 69 73 77 72, J Haas 74 72 73 72, J Parnevik (Swe) 71 71 76 73, S Verplank 72 73 72 74, J Huston 71 69 75 76

292

B Watts 69 73 77 73, N Price (Zim) 71 74 74 73, T Scherrer 72 72 74 74, DA Weibring 69 74 74 75, MA Jimenez (Sp) 73 70 72 77

293

D Berganio 68 77 76 72, T Lehman 73 74 73 73

294

G Sisk 71 72 76 75, B Estes 70 71 77 76

295

S Cink 72 74 78 71, S Struver (Ger) 70 76 75 74

296

G Hjertstedt (Swe) 75 72 79 70, C Pavin 74 71 78 73, B Fabel 69 75 78 74, C Parry (Aus) 69 73 79 75, S Pate 70 75 75 76, C Franco (Par) 69 77 73 77, E Toledo (Mex) 70 72 76 78, R Mediate 69 72 76 79

297

S Allan (Aus) 71 74 77 75, L Mattiace 72 75 75 75, C Perry 72 74 75 76, G Hallberg 74 72 75 76

298

L Janzen 74 73 76 75, D Lebeck 74 70 78 76, R Allenby (Aus) 74 72 76 76, J Carter 73 70 78 77, B Chamblee 73 74 74 77

299

S Elkington (Aus) 71 72 79 77, C Tidland 71 75 75 78

300

G Kraft 70 73 82 75, J Tyska 72 74 75 79, S McRoy 70 74 76 80, P Price (GB) 71 73 75 81

301

J Kelly 73 74 79 75, T Watson 75 70 77 79, K Yokoo (Japan) 68 74 78 81

302

T Kite 74 72 80 76, J Cook 74 73 77 78

303

B Tway 69 77 79 78, C Smith 69 77 77 80

304

L Mize 69 75 84 76

306

*H Kuehne 72 75 81 78

308

B Burns 71 76 84 77, T Tryba 72 75 82 79

309

J Daly 68 77 81 83 *denotes amateur

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