POTOMAC -- Lee Janzen's early attempts at golf provided no evidence that he ever would be anything but a hacker.
Between the ages of 6 and 12, when he was growing up in Westminster, Janzen played golf maybe three times on the Western Maryland College course.
"I was terrible," Janzen said.
He is terrible no longer. After his family moved to Florida in 1976, Janzen began to take golf seriously. Today, at 30, he is at the peak of the game.
Janzen won the first hole of a sudden-death playoff against Corey Pavin to capture the $1.4 million Kemper Open yesterday at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel. They were tied at 12-under-par 272 after 72 holes, and Pavin bogeyed the first playoff hole while Janzen birdied it.
Janzen never led until the final hole in regulation, when he and Pavin finished at 272. His confidence was soaring as they prepared for the playoff, starting on the 18th, which Janzen already had birdied four straight times.
"This was the latest I've ever made a charge," said Janzen, who has six PGA Tour victories, including the Players Championship earlier this year. "Only one bogey the last three days helped my confidence.
"Corey was the last guy I wanted to face in a playoff, but since I had birdied 18 four times in a row, there was no hole I'd rather have had the playoff on."
Janzen, who joins Jacobsen and Vijay Singh as two-time winners this year, had consistent rounds of 68-69-68-67. Pavin had 73-68-63-68, tying the tournament and course record with the 63.
Pavin said he didn't relish the thought of facing Janzen in the playoff, either.
"What makes him tough is that, when he's in position to win, he wins," Pavin said. "He focuses. He's confident. It's a snowball effect.
"Lee played great. I played well. You want to win when you're in a position like that, but he flat out beat me. I'd rather have that than beat myself."
Over the final nine holes, any one of a number of players could have won it. Leading or within two shots of the lead at one time or another were Neal Lancaster, Greg Norman, Love, Payne Stewart, Robin Freeman, Pavin and Janzen. Midway through the back nine, Love, Freeman and Pavin were at 12-under.
One by one, they faltered.
Stewart had his second double bogey of the day at 12. Norman had one at 17. Lancaster had one at 18. Freeman bogeyed 17 and 18. Janzen, with his birdie, pulled abreast of Pavin at 18. Love, the second- and third-round leader, had a double bogey on the final hole.
"We've all done that," Pavin said. "If anything, it'll make Davis angry. I wouldn't be surprised if he played well the next few weeks."
Freeman seemed crushed. He is 36, but has never won a tour event. His best finish was a tie for second in the Byron Nelson Classic last month.
"I let the tournament get away," Freeman said. "I played really well from 9 through 16 to get to the lead. I felt I was in control then."
It wasn't mechanical errors that did him in. It might have been too much thinking and poor judgment in club selection.
"On 17, I tried to chip and sort of cut it," he said. "But I didn't cut
it and wound up in a bunker. I knew I had to go for birdies on the 17th and 18th, because Davis and Pavin were behind me.
"It was the first time I've led in a tournament, and I like the position, I'll tell you that. I didn't choke. I knew what to do. But I picked a wrong club or two. It just wasn't my time."
The winner . . .
x-Lee Janzen 68-69-68-67272
. . . and selected followers
Corey Pavin 73-68-63-68272
R. L. Freeman 70-69-66-68273
Justin Leonard 71-67-70-67275
Vijay Singh 65-71-71-68275
Davis Love III 68-63-71-73275