Payne Stewart gained four strokes in the final three holes of an 18-hole playoff with Scott Simpson to win the U.S. Open, played at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.
Stewart shot a 3-over-par 75 on the dry, hard greens at Hazeltine, but it was two strokes better than Simpson, who for the second day in a row, let his second Open Championship slip away on holes 16 through 18 was. For the Championship, Simpson played holes 16, 17 and 18 in eight over par; Stewart played them in one under par.
"After the 15th hole, I thought I had a great chance again, " commented Simpson, who let a two-shot lead disappear on the closing holes of the final regulation round Sunday to force a playoff. "It's very disappointing to lose the U.S. Open two days in a two."
Stewart, conversely, played the closing holes much better, and in the playoff made his only birdie, a remarkable one, on the 16th, to close Simpson's lead to a single stroke. "The only thing I can say is that it came at the right time," said Stewart, who, along with Simpson, had set himself apart from the rest of the field at 282, six under par, after four rounds, three strokes lower than Larry Nelson and Fred Couples, who shared third place money at 285. The low amateur, for the second consecutive year, was Phil Mickelson, who finished at 300.
Stewart either led or shared the lead after each round. His best effort was an opening 67 which tied him for the lead with Nolan Henke. But Thursday's first round was interrupted around 1 p.m. by a severe storm. Lightning struck six people seeking shelter near the 11th tee, and William Fadell, 27, of Spring Park, Minnesota, was killed.
The playoff was the 30th in Open history and the third in the last four years.
Starts - 16
Best Finish - Winner 1991, '99
Rds - 57
Cuts Made - 12
Top 3 - 4
Top 5 - 5
Top 10 - 7
Top 25 - 9
Avg. - 71.58
Scores In 60s - 12
Rds Under Par -15
Earnings - $1,455,880.45