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Janzen pulls ahead of U.S. Open pack

During the time Lee Janzen made his move through golf's amateur ranks, turned professional, won two tournaments and took the lead at the halfway point of the 93rd U.S. Open, Tom Watson tumbled from the top of the game to a place well beneath the lofty standards he once set.

For nine years, Watson, 43, has watched players such as Janzen remind him of when he played so well.

It's been a long time _ way too long as far as Watson is concerned _ since he has been a factor on the PGA Tour.

But today he'll be in the final twosome along with Janzen at Baltusrol Golf Club, in contention at a major championship for one of the rare instances since his last big victory, the 1983 British Open.

Janzen, 28, who went to Lakeland High School and played golf at Florida Southern, will be paired with the winner of eight major championships, including the 1982 U.S. Open that Watson won with a dramatic chip-in for birdie on the 71st hole at Pebble Beach to edge Jack Nicklaus.

"I'm sure he's really happy to be in this position, too," said Janzen, who shot his second 3-under-par 67 on the 7,152-yard course Friday. "But I'll be nervous enough that I won't be worried about what he's doing. I'll just be trying to get it airborne on the first hole."

Janzen has made only three bogeys and his 134, 6-under-par total tied a U.S. Open 36-hole record set by Nicklaus (63-71) at Baltusrol in 1980 and tied by T.C. Chen (65-69) in 1985 at Oakland Hills.

But in pursuit is a foursome with 56 combined PGA Tour victories and 11 major championships.

Watson and 1991 U.S. Open winner Payne Stewart shot 66 to tie at 136, two shots behind Janzen. Corey Pavin (69) and Nick Price (66), the winner of last year's PGA Championship and this year's Players Championship, are another shot back at 137. There are 10 players under par, including Bradenton's Paul Azinger (139), who shot 68.

Among those who missed the cut at 144 (a U.S. Open record): Joey Sindelar (145), Masters champion Bernhard Langer (145), defending U.S. Open champion Tom Kite (145) and Greg Norman (147).

Janzen didn't figure to be around, either, based on his past three U.S. Open performances where he missed the cut.

"Really, at the beginning of the year, making the cut would have been just great here," said Janzen, who lives in Kissimmee and used to represent the Bloomingdale Golfers Club in Valrico. "In the Open, if you just make the cut you've still got a chance. It's only halfway. I don't put too much into being in the lead, so maybe the low-key approach will help."

Janzen, who has won more than $1.6-million in his brief career, also hopes his experience at this year's Masters helps. He was a first-round co-leader, along with Nicklaus, but was unable to match par the rest of the weekend.

So instead of getting impatient Friday when birdies were not coming, he waited. After a three-putt bogey at the first hole, Janzen birdied the par-4 sixth, then knocked off three in a row at the 11th, 12th and 13th holes. That moved him past Watson and Stewart.

"That turned around a round where I was struggling, mostly making just pars and not really scaring birdies," Janzen said. "All of a sudden to make those birdies, I was thinking birdies the rest of the way in. I hit a lot of good shots, had chances at birdies."

So did Watson, who was 4 over par after seven holes Thursday and played the last 29 holes in 8 under with only one bogey. That came at the second hole Friday, and Watson gave himself a stern lecture for missing a short putt.

"I've been fighting the short putts all year," Watson said. "And I said, "Here is the most important tournament and I'm not going to fail this time.' So I sucked it up and finally I changed my putting position on the seventh hole and the putts started to drop and I didn't feel so nervous over it."

Watson made birdies at the seventh, eighth, 14th, 16th and 18th holes to take the lead by himself, and was later tied by Stewart, who also birdied the 18th.

Both players have gone lengthy periods without a victory. Stewart last won at the 1991 U.S. Open. Watson, who won the 1992 Hong Kong Open, last won on the PGA Tour in 1987.

"Tom Watson, Payne Stewart and Nick Price have all won majors," Janzen said. "They're outstanding players. They've got the whole package with their games. They can do it all, have been there before. They know what they've got to do and I also know what I have to do.

"I have to go out and play my game and do my best. When my emotions start to take over and my nerves get going, I know I just have to stay patient and calm down and hit the best shots I possibly can."

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.