Stewart just off center in settling for second U.S. Open notebook


SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Payne Stewart wore the colors of the Buffalo Bills yesterday and putted like Scott Norwood once kicked.

A little to the left. And a little to the right.

"You put your best stroke on and your best read on, and sometimes they go in and sometimes they don't," Stewart said.

Unfortunately for Stewart, most of the big putts slipped away and he accepted a second-place finish behind Lee Janzen at the 93rd U.S. Open.

"I didn't play as well as I would have liked to," said Stewart, who closed with an even-par 70 for a 6-under 274 at Baltusrol Golf Club.

"I didn't drive the ball as well as I've been driving it," he said. "I hung in there and made some difficult shots, but it was tough."

Perhaps the biggest mistake Stewart made was giving Janzen the honor at the 16th green. Janzen chipped in from the rough for a birdie, and then Stewart rolled his birdie attempt from 40 feet just by the cup.

It was the big swing that turned the tournament.

"That wasn't what I was anticipating," he said. "But you know, that's [Janzen's shot] what makes champions."

Stewart hasn't won a tournament since taking the 1991 Open. But he is neither angry, nor depressed.

"I've got no regrets," he said. "I played well. I never shot over par this week. I'll keep knocking on that door, and by golly, one of these days that door will be open, and I'll just bust right through it."

Funk ties for 7th

Fred Funk came to the U.S. Open in search of a top-16 finish and a place in next year's Masters.

Instead, he nearly played his way into title contention. Using a closing- round score of even-par 70, Funk finished in a four-way tie for seventh at 1-under 279.

He'll be going to the Masters next spring.

"Overall, it's the best by far I've done at the Open and I tried to keep it in the back of my mind on the back nine," said Funk, the former University of Maryland golf coach who lives in College Park.

Swan song for Nicklaus?

The Jack Nicklaus nostalgia tour at Baltusrol came to a quiet close early yesterday, when he completed the fourth-round in 1-over 71 for a 9-over total of 289 and a tie for 72nd place.

That was a far cry from his two previous appearances at Baltusrol, when he set two scoring records to win two U.S. Opens.

"That is probably going to be the last time I walk up the 18th at Baltusrol at the U.S. Open," he said. "When are we playing again here? I'll only be 66. Sure, I'll come back and play. That would be nice to come back to the Open at 66 and shoot your age in the last round."

Nicklaus, 53, may now be long past his prime. But he still considers himself a threat to win any tournament. And he still commands respect.

Fuzzy Zoeller, his playing partner yesterday, putted out first on the 18th, to let the crowd savor one last moment with a legend.

"I just told Jack to let his hands rest," Zoeller said. "For all he has done for golf, I figured he should putt last."

Solid debut

Justin Leonard, a University of Texas junior, was the low amateur at 8-over 288, tying for 68th place.

"It has been a great experience and I felt like I learned something every day," he said. "If I get out here within a couple of years, I think I'll be that much more comfortable on the tour."

Watson: I'll be back

Tom Watson, like Nicklaus, needed a special exemption to get in this Open. But Watson surprised everyone, including himself, with a fifth-place finish at 2-under 278.

And the best part of the performance was this: he won't need an exemption next year. He has already earned his way into the 1994 Open.

"I'm happy with the way I'm swinging," Watson said after rolling in a 40-foot par putt on the 18th to finish the final round at 1-under 69. "I'm hitting a lot of good golf shots. Watson will be back one of these days."

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