There is no patented way to prepare for a major championship.
Jack Nicklaus, who won 18 of them, always believed in taking the
week off to work on his game in Florida with his longtime teacher,
Jack Grout. But as Nicklaus's flying right elbow has proved, what
worked for the Bear doesn't work for everybody. Many pros feel
just as strongly that they want a tournament tune-up going into a
Defending U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson,
Curtis Strange and Peter Jacobsen all followed the Nicklaus method
last week, choosing to practice rather than play at the Kemper
Open in Potomac, Md., in the run-up to Shinnecock Hills. But the
Kemper, so often maligned for the funky layout of the course at
the Tournament Players Club at Avenel and for the poor fields it
attracted when it wasn't scheduled for the week before the Open,
drew a colossal lineup that included Seve Ballesteros, Fred
Couples, Tom Kite, Davis Love III, Greg Norman, Jose Maria
Olazabal, Corey Pavin, Nick Price and Payne Stewart.
Notice that Lee Janzen, the eventual Kemper winner, wasn't
mentioned. That's because Janzen looks like Doogie Howser and has
about as much charisma as Phil Gramm -- until he's coming down the
stretch on Sunday, that is. Then he looks like one of those
assassins who chase James Bond on skis. With six Tour victories
since the beginning of 1992, the 30-year-old Janzen has more wins
than any other American golfer except Love, who also has six in
that same span. The Kemper was Janzen's sixth victory since 1992
and his second in 1995, coming three months after his win at The
Players Championship at Sawgrass.
All Janzen did at Avenel was birdie the 444-yard par-4 18th hole
five times, the final bird coming on the first hole of sudden
death to defeat Pavin, who was 5-2 in career playoffs going into
the overtime. Janzen's last-round 67 and the birdie-birdie finish
on Avenel's third-toughest hole further solidified his reputation
as a tough closer. At Baltusrol in the 1993 U.S. Open, he clinched
his only victory in a major with birdies on the 70th and 72nd
holes for a two-shot win over Stewart. At Westchester last summer,
he put Els away with a birdie on the tough par-3 16th on the way
to a final-round 66 and a three-stroke win. At this year's
Players Championship, golf's unofficial fifth major, he outgutted
everybody by saving par from a pot bunker at the par-3 17th.
Janzen's final-round stroke average in his six Tour victories:
67.7. And this is the second year in a row that he goes into the
U.S. Open coming off a victory.
``I always believe in playing the week before the Open,'' said
Janzen, who tied for third at Westchester the week before his Open
victory at Baltusrol. ``It seems like I'm doing a pretty good job
of peaking the week before.''
To collect his check of $252,000 and move past Peter Jacobsen into
first place on the 1995 money list, with $941,189, Janzen needed
some help. The final four holes at Avenel looked like the Open
finish at Oakmont last June. The game's best players were gagging,
chopping and choking, hitting balls into the water (as Norman did
on 17) or leaving approach shots in rough that came up over their
shoes (the way Pavin did on 18). The worst free fall of all
belonged to Love III, who dropped IV shots on the last VI holes to
go from first to a fourth-place tie in a finish reminiscent of
Scott Hoch's collapse at the Houston Open in April.
Love was 13 under and had a two-shot lead over Robin Lee Freeman
and Norman as he stood on the 13th tee with two good birdie holes
in front of him -- the reachable par-5 13th and the drivable
par-4 14th. Then his world started to crumble. His tee shot on 13
landed like a Christmas ornament, waist high in a blue spruce
tree. He had to take an unplayable lie and made bogey. He missed
his birdie putt on 14 and, to make matters worse, finished
bogey-double bogey to shoot 73. On the 18th Love hit into a
fairway bunker, then over an electronic scoreboard into another
unplayable lie before finally making it onto the green. ``You hate
to see anybody have a bad last hole,'' Pavin said. ``But it's
happened to everybody.''
For a few moments it looked as if this collection of all-world
talent would be outplayed by Freeman, who owns the distinction of
being the only player in PGA Tour history to win the
qualifying-school tournament twice. Freeman had the lead at 13
under with two holes to play but finished bogey-bogey to wind up
in third place with a payday of $95,200. Put that together with
his second-place finish at the GTE Byron Nelson Classic last month
in Irving, Texas, though, and Freeman looks like a player with a
bright future, even if he was dissatisfied on Sunday. ``I felt I
was in control of the tournament at 16,'' Freeman said, ``but I
let it get away.''
Freeman isn't in the Open, so he wasn't preparing for anything.
Norman is, and the Memorial champion was right there in the hunt
again, standing on the 71st hole just two shots off the lead. If
Norman had only known he needed just one birdie and not two to
finish in the playoff, he might have joined Janzen and Pavin on
the 18th tee for sudden death. But typical of Norman's go-
for-broke personality, he tried to hit a six-iron 195 yards to an
impossible pin placement on the par-3 17th. The Shark came up wet,
made double bogey and ended up tied for fourth.
``I was going for it,'' Norman said. ``I have no regrets. I'm
ready for next week.''
At this point it might be easy to say, Who isn't ready? Price shot
68 on Sunday to finish eight under, in a tie for ninth with four
others, including Stewart. Vijay Singh, along with Jacobsen and
Janzen a two-time winner this year, closed with 68 to wind up in
the five-way tie for fourth. And don't forget about Love, whose
troubles started on Saturday when his 300-yard tee shot at the 6th
hole hit a spectator and sent her to Suburban Hospital in critical
but stable condition. Sandy Zober, a nurse from Bethesda, Md.,
came to the Kemper just to see Love, and she got close enough to
hear his apologies before she was suddenly rushed off to the
first-aid station. Zober recovered sufficiently by the next day
that she was released at 5:15 p.m. -- about the time Love was in
need of an ambulance himself.
Love left the course after his collapse without saying a word to
anybody. After a course-record-tying 63 on Friday gave him a
two-stroke lead, he played the last 36 holes in two over. It
wasn't at all like his dramatic 66-71 finish in the Freeport
McMoRan Classic, which put him in a playoff that he eventually won
to earn an invitation to this year's Masters. Nor was it like his
closing 66 at Augusta National, which was good for a second-place
finish behind Ben Crenshaw. ``If anything, this will make him
angry,'' Pavin said of his '93 Ryder Cup teammate's performance.
``I wouldn't be surprised to see Davis play well next week and the
next few weeks. It will make him more determined.''
It is hard to find any two players more determined than Pavin and
Janzen when it comes to closing a deal. Janzen admitted, ``The
last guy I wanted to be going back to 18 with was Corey.'' And the
feeling was mutual.
Pavin got to the playoff by making 10-foot par-saving putts on the
17th and 18th holes. At the 72nd hole, he went from fairway bunker
to greenside spinach rough to a nerve-testing spot on the green.
If there's anybody in golf you would want putting a 10-footer to
stay alive it would be Pavin, but he came to Avenel having missed
three cuts in his last four tournaments. Not only that, Pavin was
using a putter different from the Bullseye that has been in his
hands since 1984.
Following a missed cut at the Memorial, Pavin flew home to Orlando
and listened to his wife, Shannon, who suggested a change. Over
that weekend he worked on the putting green at Bay Hill with the
head pro, Jim Deaton. He brought with him a handful of Cleveland
Golf putters before choosing a replica of the Wilson 8802 used by
In danger of missing the cut after an opening-round 73, Pavin
birdied three of his last seven holes Friday morning to shoot 68
and play his way into the weekend. That afternoon he met President
Clinton for 18 holes at Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va.
He wouldn't report his score -- or the President's. ``I can't
say,'' he said. ``It's classified.''
With a different look to his putter and a slightly different
stroke, Pavin took only 22 putts on Saturday to match Love's 63
and jump from 42nd to third on the leader board. But on Sunday he
needed his 27th and last putt of regulation to survive.
``I didn't think of it much,'' Pavin said. ``Just line it up, put
a good stroke on it and don't worry. I'm happy with that putt and
the putts before that. It's a good confidence builder going into
It may be, but nobody goes into Shinnecock on a bigger rocket
boost than Janzen, the quiet assassin who appears to be
bulletproof. ``Lee does a lot of stuff I do,'' says Pavin. ``When
he's in a position to win, he wins. There's a few guys who do that
well, and he's one of them.''
Says Janzen, ``That's a great reputation to have,'' but he admits
there have been tournaments he has been unable to close out. ``I
just blow it on Saturday when nobody notices. But I notice. I was
only two holes away from a good tournament at the Memorial [where
he finished tied for 19th]. It is amazing, though, to have six
wins and only one second. For all the wins Nicklaus had, he had as
Nobody is putting Lee Janzen in the same category with Jack
Nicklaus, except maybe when it comes to confidence. Asked when he
thought about winning this tournament, which he didn't lead until
the 72nd hole, Janzen never hesitated.
``Thursday,'' he said.
COLOR PHOTO: AP PHOTO/NICK WASS After bogeying 17, Love still wasn't out of the woods on 18, where a wayward shot found the foliage. [Davis Love III surrounded by trees]
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: BILL EPPRIDGE (2) Pavin left Kemper with confidence in a new putter; Freeman (below) emerged as an up-and-comer. [Corey Pavin; Robin Lee Freeman] COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN Janzen hopes that the elements of his game will crystallize into another victory at Shinnecock. [Lee Janzen holding trophy]
COLOR PHOTO: AP PHOTO/NICK WASS Montgomerie should be right in the swing of things. [Colin Montgomerie]
COLOR CHART [Chart not available: Chart listing hottest golfers coming into this year's Open with most recent and three previous tournament finishes]
Every pro golfer agrees, it helps to be swinging a hot club if
you want to win the U.S. Open. Ernie Els, last year's winner,
finished second at Westchester before his victory at Oakmont, and
three of the previous four champions had a top-seven finish in
their last pre-Open tournament. That's why Lee Janzen, coming off
his win at the Kemper on Sunday, suddenly has the look of a
contender at Shinnecock Hills. Here are the six other hottest
golfers coming into this year's Open, with a look at how they did
in their last four outings.
Player Most Recent Outing Three Previous Finishes
[text not available]