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Jun 18

Lee Janzen Returns

 

Lee Janzen Qualifies for This Year’s U.S. Open

I love this kind of thing – the guy who starts playing golf at 30, and wins a pro tournament, or a guy who quits for five years, and does the same on his first week back. I love it when things work out for people when they didn’t do it by the book. Consider Lee Janzen, for example. He’s fifty years old, and he hasn’t played a single hole in the U.S. Open for the last seven years, ever since he missed the cut at Torrey Pines in ’08. He was pushing his mid-forties then, and transitioned on to the Seniors Tour, where he’s done well, especially this year, qualifying for the 2015 U.S. Open. That’s right, Lee Janzen actually wanted to play this tournament against the likes of Rory and all the other young guns who can hit the thing a hundred miles, and haven’t yet taken on the aches and pains of fifty.

lee 1 Janzen is a two-time majors winner. He’s real, and respected – no problem with any of that. Forsaking the “book,” he hasn’t even gotten to practice on Chambers Bay. In fact, he’s barely seen this carnival mirror of a golf course, but it doesn’t seem to bother him at all. What has interested him this week is the response to his qualifying from colleagues, many of which ask him what the heck he’s thinking. Why would he want to subject himself to all the weirdness, where everything feels like a 500 yard par four, and to all the youth that will paint a clear picture for him of Father Time, so long as he remains above the cut line.
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Again, Janzen doesn’t care. He’s playing well, and he knows it. He may also understand that huge distance on a course like this isn’t necessarily a prime asset. Hit it 350 yards around Chambers Bay, and you can buy yourself a whole load of trouble, even by hitting it well. The bumpy, unpredictable terrain of the former rock quarry, with its one tree that has been rescued from destruction twice, can send the best drive in the world out into right field, or over the proverbial fence, Two hundred and eighty or so straight down the middle every time, and some good luck with the caroms, and a shorter hitter might do just fine here.

So, maybe the inability to practice on Chambers Bay isn’t such a big deal anyway. After all, what are you going to do with such a course by practicing on it? Make it easier to find the ball after it hits some rock hard mound that sends it to another county? The course itself is intentionally water starved anyway to make everything firm, and distance that stays in bounds should be good for anyone in the field.
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Janzen would have come back to the U.S. Open earlier, if he hadn’t been disqualified from the 2013 for wearing metal spikes. In this, he could have used an update from someone under the age of thirty, but oh well. But again, the question – why would Lee Janzen want to pit himself against these conditions and players? It might be good timing. He’s in a stretch of excellent golf. The nature of the course could possibly neutralize some of youth’s advantage and heighten some of youth’s follies. We’ll see if Janzen wants to play because he “can.” For now, though, it’s good enough that he wants to. What’s wrong with wanting it strenuous and difficult? Some people don’t want to climb some foothill when there’s an Everest around. Besides, you can still create surprises in your fifties. Those that aren’t of that age yet don’t know that.

It’s a weird U.S. Open this year, and I’m having a lot of fun with that. Maybe Lee Janzen will as well.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.