Janzen leads Open, shares 2-round record


SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Lee Janzen is 28 years old and a golfing millionaire and chances are you have never heard of him. He wins in February in places like Phoenix and Tucson. He takes a lead at the Masters in the first round and slips quickly out of contention long before the final run around Amen Corner.

But Janzen is hot, his swing is pure and simple and his putting is fearless.

And after two days of the 93rd U.S. Open he doesn't just have a 2-stroke lead -- he has got a share of a record.

Not bad for a guy who had not made an Open cut in three previous tries.

Janzen owned the hot, humid afternoon yesterday at the Baltusrol Golf Club. He punched out a second straight 3-under-par 67 on the par-70 Lower Course for a 36-hole total of 6-under 134.

His two-round score tied the Open record set by Jack Nicklaus at Baltusrol in 1980 and T. C. Chen at Oakland Hills Country Club in Birmingham, Mich., in 1985.

The score also meant the lowest cut in Open history at 4-over 144.

Say goodbye to reigning champion Tom Kite, Masters champion Bernhard Langer, first-round co-leader Joey Sindelar, all down and out at 145.

"It's only halfway," Janzen said. "At the beginning of the year, making the cut would have been just great. I didn't put too much into trying to be in the lead."

But it's now Janzen's tournament to win -- or lose.

And they have set a wonderful table for an Open weekend.

Tom Watson and Payne Stewart are tied in second at 4-under 136 after shooting matching 66s.

Nick Price and Corey Pavin are tied at 3-under 137.

Scott Hoch, a first-round co-leader is at 2-under 138.

Paul Azinger and Fred Couples, tour stars, are in a group of six at 1-under 139.

And 15 others, including a former Open champion Fuzzy Zoeller, are at even-par 140.

Even Nicklaus, golf's lion in winter, is within range at 2-over 142.

But for now, Janzen will keep his eye on Watson and Stewart, former Open champs.

"They've won majors," Janzen said. "They're outstanding players. They've been there before. They know what to do, and so do I. I have to play my game."

Janzen's game is a mixture of brute strength and elegance. He was good enough to grab a Masters lead this year. He was good enough yesterday, running off birdies on 11, 12 and 13, to take the lead.

"I've definitely matured," he said. "I've improved quite a bit. But I have a long way to go to be a major player."

How long? All he has to do is measure himself against his 'D playing partner today, Watson.

When Janzen began taking golf seriously as a 14-year-old, Watson was winning the 1980 British Open.

Now, Watson is 43, an old-timer who lost his putting touch for a decade, but who has suddenly rediscovered his courage on the greens.

"Sometimes I feel like George Foreman, I'm back in the ring," Watson said. "I'm crafty."

Watson owned the morning. He turned back years, making like it was Pebble Beach in 1982 or Turnberry in 1977, knocking in birdies after growing disgusted with himself for "yipping" a 3 1/2 -foot putt on the second hole.

"Here it is, the most important tournament, and I decided, I'm not going to fail this time," Watson said. Watson even took 10 practice putts on the sixth hole -- it's legal at the Open -- and tinkered with his stance.

The practice session worked. He made medium-range birdies at 7, 8, 14 and 16, had a par-saving six-footer on 12, and tapped in for birdie at 18.

And the galleries, searching for a familiar star, roared.

Watson, who has only won once in nine years, said he can win again.

"I still fight," he said. "I never stopped that."

He just stopped growing frustrated when the wins stopped coming.

"I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to live up to my performances of the past," he said. "But not anymore. I play less because of my family. I want to spend time with them. I've born the brunt of that failure [on the tour]. I still love to play the game. I still love the U.S. Open. This is the ultimate test."

So today, Janzen and Watson will begin a journey together. Janzen has never won a major and Watson has won eight. Janzen is young and in his prime and Watson is in golf middle age, a one-time star given the ceremonial honor of being named America's Ryder Cup captain.

"I'm sure I'll be nervous playing with him," Janzen said. "I'll just try to get that first shot airborne."

) Let the Open truly begin.



The leader . . . Lee Janzen 67-67134 . . . and followers Tom Watson 70-66136 Payne Stewart 70-66136 Nick Price 71-66137 Corey Pavin 68-69137 Scott Hoch 66-72138 Paul Azinger 71-68139 Fred Couples 68-71139 Bob Gilder 70-69139 Mark Calcavecchia 70-70140 John Daly 72-68140 Curtis Strange 73-68141 Raymond Floyd 68-73141 Jack Nicklaus 70-72142 Fred Funk 70-72142

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