91st U.S. Open | June 13-17, 1991
Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minnesota.
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|x-Payne Stewart, United States||67||-||70||-||73||-||72||—||282|
|Scott Simpson, United States||70||-||68||-||72||-||72||—||282|
|Fred Couples, United States||70||-||70||-||75||-||70||—||285|
|Larry Nelson, United States||73||-||72||-||72||-||68||—||285|
|Fuzzy Zoeller, United States||72||-||73||-||74||-||67||—||286|
Very few golfers in history have possessed a more graceful swing, had more style in their on-course apparel and were more popular with galleries than the late Payne Stewart.
And as the world found out, he saved his best golf for majors.
Three of his 11 career PGA Tour victories came at the biggest tournaments, including this national open — which had a tragic beginning when six patrons were struck by lightning during a thunderstorm near the 11th tee, with one man dying.
Stewart held at least a share of the lead after each round, but he trailed Simpson down the closing stretch of holes in the final round and again in the 18-hole playoff.
Simpson, the 1987 U.S. Open winner, took a one-shot lead to the final hole of the fourth round. But his drive landed in deep rough, leading to a bogey and forcing a head-to-head playoff round against Stewart, a Missouri native.
With three holes remaining in the playoff, Simpson held a two-stroke advantage. But the tournament’s most decisive swing came on the 16th hole, a short but treacherous par 4.
Simpson’s 7-iron approach shot hit a greenside mound and kicked to the back of the green. He three-putted from 40 feet for a bogey. Stewart, meanwhile, rolled in a 20-foot putt for birdie — his first birdie in 31 holes — to tie the match.
Simpson bogeyed the final two holes to essentially hand Stewart the first of his two U.S. Open titles.
Stewart shot 75 and Simpson a 77. It was the highest winning score in a playoff in 64 years (Tommy Armour defeated Harry Cooper, 76-79, at Oakmont Country Club in 1927).
“I’m fortunate to be the champion,” Stewart told reporters afterward.
Also, this was the best showing at a U.S. Open for Seattle’s Fred Couples, who tied for third. Ten months later, Couples won his lone major title at the 1992 Masters Tournament.