Golf: US Open - Stewart has right emotion

US Open victor desperate to win back Ryder Cup for United States. By Andy Farrell in Pinehurst
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The Independent Online
MICHAEL JACKSON had no idea who Payne Stewart was, at least not until prompted about his style of dress on the course, but Europe's Ryder Cup golfers certainly do. Stewart, at 42 still known as the man in the knickers, is about to put some kick back into the American Ryder Cup team.

Jackson was recently shown around Stewart's former mansion in Orlando. Told it belonged to the "famous Payne Stewart", Jackson drew a blank. Told he was the plus-fours guy, it sank in. "Oh, that guy. I know who he is," Jackson said.

Stewart is not everyone's cup of tea. He ruffled a few feathers when, after his win at Pebble Beach earlier this year, other players took his remarks about getting back onto the Ryder Cup team as a suggestion that the United States has lost because Stewart was not on the team.

Europe has won the last two matches and Stewart missed each match. He was one of the few players to go down to Valderrama two years ago to familiarise himself with the course but then Tom Kite did not pick him. This time, Stewart did not want to wait around to find out whether he would be one of Ben Crenshaw's wild cards.

Victory by one stroke over Phil Mickelson in the 99th US Open, his second national championship and third major in all, means he will be an automatic qualifier. "I had two goals this week," Stewart said. "One was to win another major and the other was to get in the Ryder Cup team. It is about time we got it back."

Stewart is a patriotic, emotional person. "I love my country," he said. "I'm one of those people who puts my hand on my heart when they play the national anthem. Heck, I sing the words. In the last two Ryder Cups, I haven't seen the emotion that was there when I played. I'm a get in your face, let's get it done kind of guy."

But he does so with completely the opposite type of golf game, which makes him an ideal US Open player. "He wears the knickers. He's more outgoing than most people on tour, but his style of play is the opposite," said Lee Janzen. "Nothing fancy, just a very simple game plan. He hits the fairways and the greens and tries to give himself a putt."

Stewart won the 1991 US Open in an 18-hole play-off over Scott Simpson. He missed a birdie putt at the final hole at Olympic last year to force a playoff with Janzen. At the 18th on Pinehurst's No 2 course on Sunday, he missed the fairway for once, chopped out of the rough but gave himself a putt by pitching to 18 feet.

Mickelson, who had led by one with three to play, had a long birdie putt, and when that missed Stewart had one to win and two for a play-off. He holed it. "I said to myself: `Give yourself a chance to make the putt. You've always wanted a putt to win the US Open.'"

After striking the putt, Stewart did not look up immediately. His wife, Tracy, had noticed he was looking up too quickly, moving his head too much, during the third round. All day Sunday, he kept his head down. "When I finally looked up at that last putt and saw it going in, I can't describe the feeling. I couldn't believe it. I felt so good. I don't know how high I jumped.

"I learned a lot from last year," Stewart added. "There is nothing worse than a gracious loser and I didn't want to go home again and have everyone say, `what a great effort'. I had to get back into position and prove myself. I knew there would be all the commotion to deal with. I knew what it was like to be put on the clock and to land in a sand divot.

"But I got the job done and that means a lot to me. I'm proud I dealt with everything. My faith is so much stronger now than last year and that gave me the strength never to give up."

That strength was seen not just at the last, where Stewart holed a vital putt. It was at each of the last three holes. At the 16th he holed from 25 feet to save par and then Mickelson dropped his only shot of the day. At the next Mickelson missed his birdie chance but Stewart converted his.

"This is a difficult loss for me to take because it was so close," said Mickelson. "With three holes to play I thought I was in control. So it is a disappointing day right now, but any day now we are expecting our first child and I'm pretty excited about that so it evens itself out."

Like the left-hander, David Duval is still without a major after his last-round collapse, and Tiger Woods continues to await a second after sharing third place with Vijay Singh.

The quality of the leaderboard, and some of the play down the stretch, reflects credit on the No 2 course. This was its first US Open and will not be its last.

"This course tests every facet of your game," said Woods. "Most US Opens don't." "This is a special place," said Stewart. "I hope my exemption does not run out before the US Open comes back."

Next comes the Open at Carnoustie. "If there is only one more golf tournament I could win, it would be the British Open," Stewart said. "The courses are fair. They let Mother Nature dictate the conditions. They feel the best player is going to handle the conditions over the four days and be the champion."

It is an event Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomerie are looking forward to after their grinding efforts at Pinehurst. Clarke finished as low European in 10th place, nine behind Stewart. "My US Open record is not outstanding but it is going in the right direction now," Clarke said.

After a poor start to the season, the Irishman is coming good at the right time, and his work with Tiger Woods' coach, Butch Harmon, is the reason. "I've worked hard over the last eight weeks and now I'm back on track, possibly better than ever," added Clarke.

US OPEN FINAL SCORES

(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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