Lee Janzen brought a sense of humor with him to his first U.S. Open appearance in seven years.
The two-time former Open champion met with reporters on Monday afternoon at Chambers Bay, three days ahead of the beginning of the first U.S. Open in Washington state history.
And this one won’t be anything like Janzen’s victory in 1998 at Olympic Club in San Francisco, where he famously hit his tee shot on the par-4 fifth hole into a cypress tree, walked back to the tee box after failing to locate his ball, then caught a lucky break when a gust of wind dislodged his ball from the tree and he was able to play it from the rough.
Janzen saved par on the hole, and won the Open championship – his second, five years after his win at New Jersey’s Baltusrol Golf Club in 1993 – by a single stroke over Payne Stewart.
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There are no such trees with which to contend at Chambers. There’s only one tree, period – the iconic Douglas fir that looms behind the 15th green along the water. This much was noted to Janzen by a reporter.
The 50-year-old replied, laughing: “Actually, I sent some guys out here a few months ago to try to chop it down, but they didn't get it done.”
(That might be a reference to an April 2008 attempt by a vandal to, well, chop the tree down. The culprit failed in his or her endeavor but was never found; the tree, much to the pleasure of the local golfing community, survived.)
Janzen earned his way into this year’s championship by winning a sectional qualifier last week in New York, clinching a spot in the U.S. Open field for the first time since his 10-year champions’ exemption expired in 2008.
He arrived in University Place on Monday after finishing sixth in the Senior Players Championship over the weekend in Belmont, Massachusetts.
Fellow players greeted him there with congratulations for qualifying to play this week at Chambers. And they also wondered why, exactly, Janzen wanted so badly to play on a course reputed for rewarding long hitters, which Janzen is not.
“I would say more than half the guys last week, they said, ‘hey, congratulations qualifying,’” Janzen said. “And then (they) added a comment, and it was usually like, ‘what were you thinking? Why do you want to go play against all those flat bellies that hit it 350 yards on a course that you have to hit it 350 yards?’ But ultimately they all said I wish I was going, too.”
Of Chambers, Janzen said he’s heard “just quick little things on Twitter” from other players who showed up early to practice. His busy playing schedule has mostly kept him from in-depth study, though he said he’s read as much about the course as he can, and also utilized FOX’s online fly-over feature.
“Driving in down the hill, I thought it was quite a scene, seeing all the tents and all the people scattered around – quite a backdrop,” Janzen said. “And then the elevation change, too, immediately. So, it looks very interesting. I can't wait to get out there to look at it.”
Christian Caple: 253-597-8437