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Payne Stewart the Authorized Biography

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Rating must be between 1 and 5 stars. Payne had taken the lead during Friday's second round, and at the end of play on Saturday, still clung to a one-shot advantage over Phil Mickelson. But as Sunday's final round commenced, Payne's position at the top of the leaderboard was jeopardized as Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and David Duval mounted separate charges.

Payne started the day playing well and rode a two-shot lead going into the ninth hole. As the round progressed, Duval dropped off, but Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh still lurked just below the top names on the leaderboard. Then, Payne began to struggle. Between holes 9 and 12, Payne missed four greens in a row, settling for bogeys at 10 and 12, which allowed Phil Mickelson to snatch the lead.

Fighting back at the thirteenth, Payne sank his putt for birdie, pulling even with Mickelson again. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods, playing in the group ahead of Payne and Phil, sank a difficult putt at 14 to draw within two strokes. The leaderboard was getting crowded at the top. On 16, Woods drained another sensational putt, dropping him to even par, only one stroke behind the leaders.

Making matters worse, Payne narrowly missed his putt for par on 15 and now trailed Phil Mickelson by one stroke as they approached the sixteenth hole. Payne shut his eyes, shaking off the wayward putt and gathering himself for the final push to the finish. Mickelson had played flawlessly all day long, sinking difficult putts, hitting incredible shots, and making virtually no mental mistakes. He had not bogeyed a single hole throughout the round. His steady play was especially remarkable considering that on this Father's Day, back home in Scottsdale, Arizona, his wife was due to deliver their first child.

Phil knew that at any moment he might receive a phone call telling him that Amy was on her way to the hospital. Given a choice between contending in the Open and being at home for the birth of their baby, Phil had announced in advance that he'd walk away from Pinehurst to be with Amy. It was a decision Payne understood and heartily endorsed. But the distractions of imminent fatherhood did nothing to diminish Phil's competitive edge. If anything, it inspired him all the more! Thinking about what it might mean to win the U. Open on Father's Day, he had mused, "It could be a cool story for my daughter to read about when she gets older.

No matter what the weather, the par-4 sixteenth at Pinehurst was treacherous, a hole that only three players had managed to hit in regulation during Sunday's final round. It looked as though 16 might be Payne's waterloo as well. He missed the green on his approach and then made matters even worse by hitting a poor chip shot, leaving himself a monstrous foot putt for par. Payne chewed his gum pensively as he strode onto the green. Concentration creased his brow, yet he seemed amazingly calm and composed.

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He leaned over, went through his normal pre-putt routine, then took a smooth, even, pendulum stroke and rolled the putt in as though it were a 3-footer! As the crowd roared its approval, Payne nonchalantly raised his right arm and pointed his index finger skyward in a brief acknowledgment, as though saying, "Thank you very much, but I still have a lot of work to do.

It was obviously horrible. But then I got myself right back into it and said, 'OK, you gotta stand up here, read the line, and make the putt. It gave me a lot of belief that I still had a chance to win the golf tournament. Suddenly, the two were tied again. Up ahead on the seventeenth green, Tiger Woods's putt spun around the left side of the cup and lipped out. He would have to birdie the last hole to have a chance to win. At 17, a yard par 3, both Payne and Phil nearly knocked the flag over, sticking their tee shots close enough possibly to make birdie.

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Payne's ball was about four feet from the cup, and Phil had a 6-footer. Phil missed his putt and had to settle for par. Before Payne lined up his putt on 17, a male voice in the broadcast booth could be heard on the air, saying ever-so-faintly, "Payne's gonna win. After Payne made his birdie, I reluctantly pulled myself away from the television screen in our rented house where I had been watching every shot.

I hurried outside to the car. Win or lose, I wanted to be there when Payne finished. Ripping out of the driveway, I roared toward the golf course, trying to locate a radio station that might be carrying the tournament. Fortunately, traffic was light, and I soon raced into the players' parking area near the clubhouse and ran to the eighteenth green.

Thousands of spectators lined the fairways and crowded around the eighteenth green to watch the national championship come to a close. People were sitting on the clubhouse roof; several were perched precariously in nearby trees; everyone strained for any advantage to their view. I quickly made my way out toward the green. About the same time, in the group up ahead on the eighteenth green, Tiger Woods lined up his putt, a footer that could put him back at even par and possibly keep him in contention.

Woods stroked the putt as purely as he had any shot all day.

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The ball bee-lined across the green toward the hole but then rolled past, missing the cup by inches. Tiger doubled over in agony as he watched the ball dribble to a stop, possibly dashing his hopes of a championship. He shut his eyes and for a few moments seemed frozen in time, his face grimacing with disappointment.

So close, yet so far away. In the meantime, Payne had teed off on He connected with the shot squarely and thought he had hit it well enough to be safe, though he couldn't see where the ball had landed. He was wrong. His drive had hit the first cut of deep rough, and instead of squirting through and landing in perfect position on the fairway, as so many similar tee shots had done that day, Payne's shot got hung up in the thick, wet grass.

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The ball bounced first to the left and then jogged back to the right, diving straight into the high grass just six inches off the fairway, in horrible position. After Payne hit his tee shot on 18, the chimes at the nearby Pinehurst chapel began to play. When Payne trekked down the fairway and found his ball tucked in the rough, he was surprised and a bit disappointed. But Payne loved to hit the tough shots, and this one challenged him.

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When Phil's drive landed in the heart of the fairway, Payne's one-stroke lead was once again in jeopardy. All week long he had stuck to his game plan whenever he was in trouble. He had learned from experience that when you're in trouble at the U. Open, you lay up and try to make par with your short game.

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He called this "taking your medicine," and he wasn't about to change the game plan that had helped him to lead after more rounds than anyone in the history of the U. Payne took his medicine and hit a 9-iron, landing well short of the bunker. So when I drove it in the rough, I took my medicine and got into position to hit a wedge onto the green. Even though I was in the rough, I felt confident I could save par.

With Payne forced to lay up, Phil felt free to attack the green. He launched an aggressive second shot, which rolled to a stop within twenty feet of the pin. By now, I had made my way through the clubhouse and outside to an area restricted to players, family, USGA officials, and media; but I was still stuck in a crowd, three or four people deep, behind several taller spectators. I stood on my tiptoes, stretching to see Payne's next shot. He eyed me curiously, as though he might recognize me, but I didn't give him any further hint concerning my identity.

If the round ended in a tie, that would mean an eighteen-hole play-off on Monday.