His golfing idol was Tom Watson, and Lee Janzen remembers where he was when Watson's historic chip shot at Pebble Beach grabbed the 1982 U.S. Open title from Jack Nicklaus.
"We have a ceiling fan in my parents' living room," said Janzen, who was a student at Lakeland High at the time. "When he made that shot, I think I hit that fan. I jumped so high. And the ceiling is about 12 feet. Tom Watson was the guy I always rooted for in those days."
Watson won't forget where he was, either, when Janzen made a chip shot for birdie Sunday that helped him secure the 1993 U.S. Open at Baltusrol Golf Club. He was sitting in the interview room, going over a round that helped him gain a place in next year's field. Suddenly, Janzen's ball rolled into the cup, and the roar from the television told Watson something happened.
"Let's see that," Watson said. "The hell with my interview." Watson rushed over to see the replay and immediately said he could not help but think back to 1982.
"Actually, very poignantly, it reminded me of the 17th at Pebble Beach," said Watson, 43. "I'm happy for him. He's a fine player."
Janzen's chip shot on the 16th hole was not as difficult as Watson's, but every bit as important. It gave him a two-shot cushion over Payne Stewart, which was the final margin of victory.
The final-round 69 gave Janzen four rounds in the 60s, making him only the second player (along with Lee Trevino, who did it in 1968) to do so in a U.S. Open. And his birdie putt at the 18th hole helped him tie the U.S. Open scoring record of 272, set by Jack Nicklaus in 1980 at Baltusrol.
But the chip shot on No. 16 is what will define Janzen's victory. Leading Stewart by one shot, he missed the green to the left and was in the rough. Although Janzen said he had a good lie and believed he could get the ball close, or even make it, there was the chance he might hit it poorly and bogey the hole. Stewart was safely on the green with a birdie putt.
"He was in a tough position there," said Craig Parry, who finished five strokes back in third place. "Miss it and he would have run 6 feet past the hole."
"For some reason," Janzen said, "when I got to the ball, the grass was leaning toward the hole. That was a blessing to me. It was the best lie (from the rough) I had all week."
There were other important breaks. Trying to hit his approach from the rough at the par-4 10th, Janzen wanted to go high over the trees. His ball did not get up, but somehow got through the trees and onto the green.After his birdie at the 16th, his tee shot on the 17th hole drifted to the right, but hit a tree and bounced back into the fairway.
"That's the kind of thing that happens to guys who are destined," Janzen said.
"Those things happen to champions," said Stewart, who has not won a tournament since his 1991 U.S. Open victory. "All the credit in the world has to go to Lee Janzen. The man stood up there and just did it."
Said Janzen, with tears rolling down his face: "This is the greatest day in my life. To think of all the great players who have won this, to think that I have that kind of talent "
It was the only time he choked all day.