Two golfers who live only a few miles apart in Central Florida, but are separated by the same distance in major-championship experience, will play in the final twosome today with the 93rd U.S. Open title at stake.
For one, this is much too soon to be contending in a tournament of this stature. For the other, it is not soon enough.
Lee Janzen of Kissimmee didn't figure to be in this position so quickly. His goal going into the year was to make the cut in all four major championships and give himself a shot at winning next year.
Payne Stewart of Orlando expects
to be in this position at every major. He's already won two, but since his 1991 U.S. Open victory has not won at all.
The Floridians stayed ahead of the field Saturday during the third round at Baltusrol Golf Club by playing steady, if unspectacular, golf _ exactly what is necessary at the U.S. Open.
Janzen shot 1-under-par 69 on the 7,152-yard course to maintain his lead at 7-under 203. That ties a 54-hole Open record. Stewart, who did not make a bogey, shot 68 and is a shot behind.
Another Florida resident, Nick Price of Orlando, is four shots behind Janzen after shooting 70. And Bradenton's Paul Azinger is another shot back after shooting 69. Azinger is tied with David Edwards, who had the day's best score, 66. There are 10 players within six shots of Janzen.
"This is definitely new territory for me," said Janzen, 29, who is in his fourth year on the PGA Tour but has two victories, including this year's Phoenix Open. "This is very early in my career for the majors. I would have been very pleased to have been around the lead going into the last round.
"But I feel much more confident keeping the lead. That was a big boost."
Janzen, a former Florida Southern standout, led by two shots after the second round over Stewart and Tom Watson, who fell back with a 73. Watson, winner of five British Opens, two Masters and a U.S. Open, was hurt by the malady that has afflicted him for most of the past decade _ missed short putts. Watson made only one birdie and missed four putts inside 4 feet.
"I'm kind of disappointed," said Watson, 43, six shots behind Janzen. "I didn't have a very good round, but I still have an opportunity to win."
So does Azinger, who fought off the heat and humidity and birdied the last two holes. "It was really hot," Azinger said. "It took a lot out of me. But I putted exceptionally well and gave myself a chance."
Price, winner of the 1992 PGA Championship and this year's Players Championship, also has a shot after two late birdies.
"From what I've learned in the past, you try to play yourself into position for the back nine on Sunday at a major," Price said.
Nobody did that better than Stewart, 36, who had 16 pars and two birdies. The first birdie came on the 13th hole, when he hit a pitching wedge to 2 feet at the par-4. He also birdied the par-5 18th by hitting the green in two and two-putting.
But Stewart resisted the urge to gamble. "Par is worth something here," he said. "Par is a good score on any hole out here. I know a lot of the field would have been happy to shoot 70.
"I did what I wanted to do. I tried to hit a lot of fairways and greens and give myself some opportunities. I didn't really take advantage of all the opportunities, but I didn't make any mistakes. You can't have success in the U.S. Open if you make mistakes. I was very proud of the way I played. In years past, I probably would have forced the issue. I didn't do that. I have no regrets."
Neither does Janzen, who had opportunities to increase his lead but was unable to convert. Janzen birdied the first two holes to lead by three shots, but he bogeyed the third and the fifth before saving par at the sixth with an 8-footer.
At the par-4 eighth, Janzen hit a 9-iron to 18 feet for another birdie. He missed the green and bogeyed the par-4 15th, but knocked a 3-wood 239 yards to the par-5 18th and two-putted for birdie to get to 7-under for the tournament.
"I didn't want to give any shots away trying to build my lead," Janzen said. "I didn't want to get momentum going the wrong way and bring more guys into the tournament. I was in a great position to make a lot of pars."
Janzen also is in excellent position to set a Open scoring record. Jack Nicklaus holds the record at 272, set 13 years ago at Baltusrol. Janzen needs to shoot 68 today to break it.
Of course, if he thinks too much about records, somebody could pass him and steal the trophy.
"Having never been in the lead of a major championship going into the final round is a little different," Price said of Janzen's position.
"I have been in this position before," said Stewart, who also won the 1989 PGA Championship. "And I'm going to draw on that _ just the fact that I've won the U.S. Open before and I know I can do it again."