It was worth seeing. Janzen, who led the championship from the second round, still had the lead, by one stroke, from his playing partner, Payne Stewart, but he missed the green at the short 16th and his ball nestled in the rough. Janzen, 20 or so feet away from the flag, chipped into the hole for a birdie two. Watson leapt from his chair. It was, he said, a 'very poignant' reminder.
Eleven years ago Watson won the 82nd US Open at Pebble Beach after chipping in at the 17th in the final round. Janzen, then 17 and mad about golf, watched the scene on TV in the living room of his parents' home in Florida and when Watson's ball disappeared into the hole the teenager shot out of his chair. If he had leapt any higher, Janzen recalled on Sunday, he could have lost a few fingers to the whirling fan on the ceiling.
In an engrossing final round at Baltusrol on Sunday Janzen, a 28-year-old from Kissimmee, held off Stewart, Watson and everybody else. It was a commanding performance by a player who could go on to make a significant and lasting impression in the game. A dream come true? 'I didn't think I could dream this big,' Janzen said.
His memorable birdie on the 16th, which all but finished off Stewart, may have had an element of luck but Janzen was confident of, at the very least, getting the ball close to the hole. 'I had a great lie and my intention was to land it a foot or so on the green and let it run towards the flag. The thing just started breaking towards the hole.' Stewart, who had found the green at the 16th with his tee shot, invited Janzen to play first and the response from the new kid on the block stopped Stewart in his tracks.
The birdie two put Janzen back to seven under par, two strokes ahead of Stewart. Janzen also had two strokes of luck at the 17th and 18th, both par fives. His drive at the penultimate hole clipped a branch and his ball rebounded on to the fairway; at the last he drove into the rough on the right, laid up short of the lake with a wedge (he abandoned thoughts of going for the green) and hit a four-iron to within seven feet of the flag after his ball took a nice little kick off the bank at the front of the green.
Janzen, who only joined the US Tour in 1990, tapped in the putt at the 18th for a birdie four to win the championship on the memorable aggregate of 272, eight under par. He equalled the record set by Jack Nicklaus at the same course in 1980 and Janzen's 69 on the final day made him only the second player in the history of the US Open to score four rounds below 70. Lee Trevino did it in 1968.
Janzen made up the leeway with a seemingly nerveless performance that not only secured him elbow room in the Hall of Fame but also dollars 290,000 (pounds 194,000), a 10-year exemption on the US Tour and a place, which he values above all else, in the American team that takes on Europe in the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in September. Rick Smith, who coaches Janzen and Nicklaus, said of the younger man: 'He is never satisfied and that is why I think he could become one of the greats.'
Stewart, who won the US Open in a play-off two years ago, will also be wearing the Stars and Stripes at The Belfry as will Paul Azinger, who finished joint third here at three under par. Watson, the 43-year-old captain of the US Ryder Cup team, was tied fifth. Watson was bullish to the point of not ruling out the possibility of him playing in the Ryder Cup. In August the leading 10 qualify and Watson chooses the remaining two. He will not choose himself but he has not given up the prospect of qualifying on merit. 'I'm hitting a lot of good shots,' Watson said. 'Watson will be back one of these days.'
After watching Janzen's chip at the 16th Watson returned to his chair. The five-times Open champion received a special exemption from the USGA to play at Baltusrol and his performance on Sunday guarantees him a place in next year's US Open. Only 10 of the 88 players who made the cut finished under par. Barry Lane, who has won enough money to qualify for the Ryder Cup, was the leading European, finishing joint 16th at one over par for the championship following a 69 on Sunday.
Lane, from Berkshire, was an assistant professional at the public Downshire course near Bracknell 10 years ago when he made his first, and until last week, his only visit to the US. In Orlando, Florida, he won the World Assistant Professionals Championship. 'I didn't know what to expect here,' Lane said, 'and to play well was a bonus. It was a lovely week. One thing it has taught me is that I don't need to be afraid of anybody.'
Lane's finish did not earn him exemption to next year's US Open but it does get him into the Masters at Augusta in April. Five of the 10 Europeans missed the cut at Baltusrol and four of the survivors, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle (he had a hole in one at the 12th on Sunday) and Nick Faldo never threatened to appear on the leaderboard.
Nicklaus, who tied with Faldo at nine over par, made his last (probably) appearance at Baltusrol where he won the US Open in 1967 and 1980. The USGA likes the venue so much it returns there every 13 years. Nicklaus will be 66 years of age when, and if, the US Open returns to Springfield. On the 18th tee on Sunday Nicklaus said: 'This is it, the last one.' 'Thank God,' Fuzzy Zoeller, his playing partner, replied.Reuse content