wins dramatic U.S. Open
Gracious in a devastating
defeat a year ago in the U.S. Open, Payne Stewart could not contain the raw emotion
that overwhelmed him Sunday when his 15-foot par putt disappeared into the hole.
He thrust his fist
in the air.
turned to his caddie and screamed above the cheering throng around the 18th green
at Pinehurst No. 2.
I wanted to do was give myself a chance," Stewart said, choking back tears. "I
never gave up. I got the job done."
Motivated by past failures, haunted by bizarre breaks that always seemed to go
the other way, Stewart became the first player in the 99-year history of the U.S.
Open to win on the 72nd hole with a substantial putt.
In a stunning conclusion to the most dramatic U.S. Open of the decade, Stewart
closed with an even-par 70 in a steady drizzle to defeat Phil Mickelson by one
looked up, it was about 2 feet away from the hole and breaking right into the
center of the cup," he said. "I couldn't believe my eyes. I couldn't believe I
had accomplished my dream."
Stewart, 42, was the only man standing below par at the end of four perilous trips
around Pinehurst No. 2. He finished at 279.
Mickelson, the expectant father who was willing to drop the pursuit of his first
major if his wife went into labor in Arizona, winced as his 25-foot birdie putt
on the 18th stopped just inches short.
think it would have made for a cool story for my daughter to read about as she
got older," Mickelson said. "But this is still something special."
After the victory, Stewart grabbed both sides of Mickelson's face and said to
him, "Good luck with the baby. There's nothing like being a father."
All Mickelson wants is to be called, "Daddy." Stewart denied him the opportunity
to be called a U.S. Open champion.
Tiger Woods made a remarkable charge until a bogey on the par-3 17th stopped him.
Woods had a 70 and tied for third at 281 with PGA champion Vijay Singh, whose
69 was one of only two rounds under par Sunday.
It was the third straight year the U.S. Open champion won his second title of
the decade. Stewart also won at Hazeltine in 1991 after an 18-hole playoff with
Scott Simpson, which featured a two-shot swing on the 16th hole.
This one was even more breathtaking. All along the back nine as they worked their
way through the fairways that Donald Ross carved through the Carolina pines 92
years ago, the anticipation built with every shot.
Mickelson looked as steady as Lee Janzen, who he defeated Stewart at Baltusrol
in 1993 and Olympic Club last year. He looked as confident as Raymond Floyd, who
surged past Stewart to win at Shinnecock Hills in 1986.
Stewart was scrambling by the seat of his plus-fours with a remarkable display
just wasn't going to hand it to him," he said.
Standing in the 16th fairway, Mickelson thought the Open was his to lose.
He failed to get up-and-down
from the rough on No. 16, missing a 6-footer for his only bogey of the day that
dropped him into a tie with Stewart. Then, Stewart hit a 6-iron to 3 feet on the
17th, and Mickelson changed his thinking.
soon as Payne hit that ball on 17, that was the first time I realized he could
beat me," Mickelson said. "I realized that par might not be good enough."
It almost was when Stewart's
drive caught a bad lie in the rough on the closing hole. He had no shot at the
green from such a mangled lie and knew better than to bring trouble into play
up and hit a lob wedge into 15 feet, the kind of distance that gave him what he
wanted -- a chance to win the Open.
putts that Payne made on 16 and 18 showed what a great champion he is," Mickelson
his fist in the air, turned to caddie Mike Hicks and shouted in disbelief, perhaps
exorcising the demons of U.S. Opens past.
He has had at least a share of the lead 11 times after any of the first three
rounds, more than any player in history. He finally reaped the rewards Sunday.
It was the first
time since 1993 that a 54-hole leader hung on to win without a playoff. Stewart
earned $625,000 for his 11th career victory. He now has three majors, having won
the PGA Championship in 1989, and became only the 13th player to win two Opens.
David Duval, who
started the final round only three strokes back, butchered the par 3s on the front
once again and finished with his second 75 for the weekend. He tied for seventh,
barely enough to keep his No. 1 ranking over Woods.
The only thing that kept Woods out of the playoff was his putter.
"I hit a lot of lips today,"
Woods said. "That's just the way it goes sometimes, but it all evens out in the
end, because I made a lot of putts this entire week for par."
Woods had a chance to get within one stroke of the lead standing over a 12-foot
birdie putt on No. 12. He grazed the lip, then missed the 2-footer coming back.
But he never backed
down. Woods dropped to his knees when his 20-foot birdie putt curled into the
cup on No. 14, then sent a roar that resounded across Pinehurst with a 12-foot
birdie putt on 489-yard 16th, one of only three birdies Sunday on the longest
par 4 in U.S. Open history.
One stroke back, two holes to play. Then, his chances were over.
Woods missed a 5-foot par putt on the 17th after hitting in the bunker. His only
hope was a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th, but it slid by on the right, and Woods
leaned over on the putter as if falling on his sword.
glad he made that putt on 18 because I'll be sleeping a little bit better tonight,"
U.S. Open felt more like the British Open when final round began. Temperatures
were in the mid-60s -- about 20 degrees below normal -- as a steady drizzle fell
from the quiet, overcast skies.
Slightly softer conditions yielded more than just an occasional par. Then again,
disaster was always waiting around the severely sloped edges of the domed greens.
John Daly was so
disgusted after his shot up the slope began rolling back to his feet for the second
time that he whacked the ball with his putter as it was still moving -- a two-stroke
penalty -- and finally walked off the eighth green with an 11.
don't consider the U.S. Open a major any more," Daly said.
He was never in the picture Sunday. But the real pain belonged to Duval.
Duval was only one stroke
out of the lead after just three holes and, just like the Masters, was poised
for a dramatic Sunday move. Then, just like the Masters, his collapse came with
After missing two 5-foot par putts, Duval suffered another double bogey on a par
3 -- blasting from the sand over the green, watching helplessly as a chip rolled
back to his feet. For the week, he was 7 over on the frontside par 3s.
"The (bunker) shot on No.
9 proves this isn't a game of 'deserves,' because I certainly didn't deserve that,"
Duval said. "But the game doesn't care."
Stewart could argue that he didn't deserve his fate in previous U.S. Opens. Even
after blowing a four-stroke lead last year, he was determined to return to the
has reputation of being the "Graveyard of Champions." Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer
and Tom Watson also squandered chances there, and never won another major.
Stewart rose from the depths
and reclaimed his stature as a champion.