This was the stuff of dreams, but Lee Janzen never had them. As a kid, he never envisioned winning the U.S. Open, never believed it was something he could accomplish, never figured he had the game to etch his name on the famous trophy.
But on a day when his stomach was churning and his feet were burning and his head was hurting, Janzen kept his composure, got some fortuitous bounces and holed a dramatic chip shot to hold off Payne Stewart and win the 93rd U.S. Open.
"I never knew if I had it in me to do it," said Janzen, fighting back tears at Baltusrol Golf Club. "To perform at my absolute best the one most important week of the year is just incredible. For me to come through like this, it will probably be the overachievement of my life."
Janzen chipped in for a birdie at the 16th hole for a two-shot cushion over Stewart, then hit a 4-iron from 192 yards at the par-5 18th to 8 feet for a birdie putt that tied the U.S. Open scoring record.
He completed 72 holes in 8-under 272 to tie the record set by Jack Nicklaus in 1980 at Baltusrol. All four of Janzen's rounds _ 67, 67, 69, 69 _ were in the 60s, matching Lee Trevino's achievement in 1968 as the only players to do so in a U.S. Open.
At 28, Janzen _ who lives in Kissimmee, played at Florida Southern College in Lakeland and once represented the Bloomingdale Golfers Club in Valrico _ became the youngest player since Andy North in 1978 to win the U.S. Open.
The victory was worth $290,000 from the $1.6-million purse and was the third of Janzen's four-year PGA Tour career, pushing him to third on the '93 money list with $806,990.
"My nerves were going right from the first hole," Janzen said. "I don't think they changed all day."
That they held up at all is remarkable. Janzen played in the last twosome with Stewart, 36, the winner of two major championships and a player with considerably more experience. No one else challenged.
Starting the day with a one-shot advantage over Stewart, Janzen still had it with nine holes to play. But he was wobbling. On the 10th hole, his drive sailed far to the right, but he somehow managed to hit a shot that went through the trees and allowed him to make par.
At the par-3 12th hole, Janzen missed the green with his approach and made a bogey that dropped him into a tie with Stewart at 5 under.
"It was definitely exciting today, especially when we were even after 12," said Stewart, who shot even-par 70. "And then I hit a good putt at the 13th that I thought I made, then he makes a great birdie on 14."
That gave Janzen a one-shot advantage, but with two par-5 finishing holes approaching it was nowhere near safe.
It looked like he might lose it after his 5-iron approach shot to the par-3 16th fell short of the green and in the left rough. Stewart was safely on the green, about 35 feet from the pin, and although he was farther from the hole, Stewart allowed Janzen to go first.
"When I saw my lie, I felt like I had a good chance to chip in," Janzen said. "I wanted him (Stewart) to be comfortable with his decision. I asked him twice and he gave me the option to go. I thought I had given him every opportunity to putt first, and if I chip in here, it's going to be a huge momentum swing. I felt like any advantage I could get, I should take.
"I was just trying to land it a foot or so on the green and I landed it right where I thought I had to land it, and the thing just started breaking toward the hole and I could just see it going in."
So could Stewart, who was now two shots behind and for the second time in three weeks felled by an improbable chip shot. At the Memorial Tournament, Paul Azinger's bunker shot for birdie on the 72nd hole beat him.
"That wasn't what I was anticipating, but that's what makes champions," said Stewart, who won $145,000 for second place. "And then, I thought I'd made my putt on 16."
It wasn't over yet. After both players parred the par-5 17th, the 542-yard, par-5 18th still offered an opportunity for Stewart to eagle and tie. When Janzen hit his drive in the right rough and was forced to lay up in front of the creek, the possibility existed that Stewart could birdie and Janzen might bogey. Janzen had his worst lie of the week, and considered trying to hit a 7-iron the 140-yard distance over the water to have a closer third shot.
"But if I hit it in the water, I knew it would have been the dumbest decision in the history of golf," Janzen said.
He laid up with a sand wedge, then had 192 yards to the pin. He pushed a 4-iron, but the wind held the ball up and it stopped 8 feet from the cup.
Stewart was in the front bunker in two shots and thinking about an eagle. "I did have visions of Azinger in that bunker," Stewart said. His shot came out close enough for a birdie, but Janzen had only to two-putt to win.
Instead, he birdied it to join Nicklaus and Trevino in U.S. Open history _ and begin living the dream he never even dreamed.
"I don't think I could ever dream this big," Janzen said. "This is bigger than a dream."