Golf: Janzen in rare trip to Europe

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The Independent Online
LEE JANZEN, the reigning US Open champion and world No 23, makes a rare appearance on the European Tour this week. Janzen plays in the Italian Open at CircoloGolf, which begins today in Turin. The field also includes the Masters champion, Jose Maria Olazabal, Seve Ballesteros and the top three on the Order of Merit - Swindon's David Howell, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Swede Jarmo Sandelin, winner of the Spanish Open on Sunday.

It was the 1993 Dutch Open which last saw Janzen compete in a regular tour event in Europe. He finished 19th then and does not expect it to be easy to beat that. "I fully expect it to be very competitive," said the 34-year-old. "That's the difference now. You can't go anywhere in the world and expect the field to be weak.

"There are so many more good players now. I've been impressed with people like Patrik Sjoland. I noticed at the World Matchplay [the Californian version in February] that he beat Jim Furyk and everybody took notice of that. He must be a heck of a player to have beaten him the way he did."

Sjoland, this week's defending champion, won 5 and 3 and victory on Sunday could take him above his compatriot Sandelin into fifth place in the Ryder Cup table.

What brings Janzen to Italy for the first time is a contract with one of the title sponsors. "I've played a lot in Japan, but I figured I've been there enough and it's a much shorter trip to Europe," he added. "There's no reason why I shouldn't come here instead. Travel is getting easier, which means you can play more overseas. We play for a lot of money at home, so it's not easy to leave, but if you do well early in the year it opens the door to playing more abroad.

"I think it's very important to win outside the United States [though Janzen has never achieved that] and you can't do it if you don't play. I haven't done it as much as some guys, but I think it does help make you a more complete player and you can see the world as well. Once my son Connor gets older we might travel a bit more."

Janzen was lying joint third at half-way in the Masters three weeks ago and remained only three off the lead with a round to go, but then shot 76 against Olazabal's 71 and finished only 14th. Olazabal returned to action in Barcelona last week and missed the cut. He admits he is still a little flat after the high of Augusta, but said: "It's just a matter of me putting myself in a position to win to bring the adrenalin back."

He and Janzen were Ryder Cup singles opponents at Valderrama two years ago - the American birdied the last three holes to win - but have not been paired together in the first two rounds tomorrow and Friday.

Janzen plays with Ballesteros and Argentina's Eduardo Romero, Olazabal with Sandelin and Scot Andrew Coltart. Howell has led the Order of Merit since his victory in the Dubai Desert Classic 10 weeks ago and if the 23-year-old can stay in the top two for another month a place in June's US Open at Pinehurst will be his. Otherwise, he will fly to the States to try to qualify.

But he knows he has to produce quality golf to achieve his aim. Prize- money starts leaping up now with a winner's cheque of nearly pounds 120,000 on offer this week, pounds 133,333 at the Benson and Hedges International in a fortnight, then pounds 200,000 in Germany and pounds 216,000 at the Volvo PGA championship at Wentworth.