99th U.S. Open | June 17-20, 1999
Pinehurst Resort No. 2 Course, Pinehurst, N.C.
|Payne Stewart, United States||68||-||69||-||72||-||70||—||279|
|Phil Mickelson, United States||67||-||70||-||73||-||70||—||280|
|Vijay Singh, Fiji||69||-||70||-||73||-||69||—||281|
|Tiger Woods, United States||68||-||71||-||72||-||70||—||281|
|Steve Stricker, United States||70||-||73||-||69||-||73||—||285|
This had all the juicy plot lines of a daytime soap opera season finale.
Payne Stewart was the anguished hero, who just a year ago blew a four-shot lead in the final round and lost to Lee Janzen at Olympic Club.
Phil Mickelson was the up-and-coming superstar — ready to become a father for the first time right near the end of this national open.
Tiger Woods was already a superstar, and made his first real noise at a U.S. Open before bowing out with a late bogey.
In the end, what will be remembered in all of its glory — and unfortunate tragedy months later — was Stewart confidently rolling in a 15-foot putt to save par on the 72nd hole to win his second U.S. Open, then flashing his famous fist-pumping-on-one-leg pose.
It was seconds after that celebration that he approached Mickelson — his playing partner, who lost a one-shot lead on the 16th hole — gave him a hug and told him there is nothing like becoming a new father.
Four months later, Stewart and five others perished in an airplane accident traveling from Orlando, Florida, to Houston for the Tour Championship. Stewart’s jet depressurized, killing all aboard. The plane eventually ran out of fuel and crashed in a field in South Dakota.
Before that U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Stewart had only recently snapped a four-year drought by winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
But he wasn’t considered a serious threat coming into Pinehurst — Woods and David Duval, a four-time winner in 1999, were pegged as the players to beat.
But Stewart earned a share of the lead after the second round, and took it right to the back nine Sunday with Mickelson.
At the 16th hole, a long par-4, Stewart drained a 25-footer to save par while Mickelson missed an 8-footer, and the two men were tied once again.
On the next hole, a 191-yard, par-3, Stewart ripped a 7-iron next to the hole. He putted in a 5-footer to grab a one-stroke lead.
After Stewart, 42, leaked his tee shot right and finally got his golf ball on the green in three shots, many thought this was headed to an 18-hole playoff.
But Stewart’s par-saving putt came over a ridge, and darted back to the left a few feet from the hole and went in.
“I just wasn’t going to hand the trophy over to him,” Stewart said. “Phil is going to have an opportunity to win again.”
Stewart was correct on that point: Mickelson is a six-time U.S. Open runner-up looking for his first national open title.