Stewart will always be linked to site of '99 Open win
Posted: Thursday June 9, 2005 10:04PM; Updated: Monday June 13, 2005 11:59AM
From SI.com wire reports
This image of Payne Stewart celebrating his 1999 U.S. Open win can now been seen in a statue overlooking Pinehurst's 18th green.
Professional golfers who spend entire careers battling to keep their emotions in check will be able to express their feelings more freely next week when the U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
Apart from focusing on the second major of the year, they will be thinking back to the 1999 tournament at the same venue when Payne Stewart clinched the title by sinking a 15-foot par putt on the 72nd hole to beat Phil Mickelson by a single stroke.
Just four months later, Stewart died when his private jet crashed in the South Dakota countryside and the American golfer and Pinehurst will remain forever linked.
A statue of Stewart in victory celebration overlooks the 18th green hole and a public ceremony will be held there on Tuesday in memory of the double U.S. Open champion.
"I remember the putt he made on 16, and then he birdied 17, and then obviously his putt on 18," recalled South African Ernie Els of Stewart's final major triumph.
"He definitely out-putted the guys that week, and you could just see in his emotion how much he wanted to win that tournament.
"I remember he wasn't playing great golf at that time. He just gutted it out. He wanted it more than anybody, you could see that.
"You know, Payne will always be missed out here," added Els, who won the 1994 and 1997 U.S. Opens. "He was a true character. You knew where he was coming from, and he had a little bit of air of cockiness to him."
A ferocious competitor with one of the game's most graceful swings, Stewart won 11 times on the PGA Tour, including three majors.
He was ranked eighth in the world at the time of his death and trailed only Greg Norman and Davis Love III in career earnings on the Tour with $11,737,008.
He clinched his first U.S. Open in 1991 in an 18-hole playoff against Scott Simpson at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minnesota, and won the 1989 PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes in Illinois, coming from six shots behind in the final round.
However, it was not just Stewart's playing record that marked him out as something special.
With the possible exception of Tiger Woods, he was perhaps the game's most recognisable competitor with his trademark plus-four trousers and tam-o'-shanter cloth cap.
For years, as part of a sponsorship deal, he wore the colours of the local National Football League team when he played in PGA Tour events. Eventually he sponsored his own line of clothing featuring them.
He would occasionally wear a shirt and tie out on the course, echoing the dress of players from the early part of last century.
For better or worse, Stewart's sense of golfing tradition and style opened the door for other players -- such as fellow American Duffy Waldorf, Swede Jesper Parnevik and Britain's Ian Poulter -- to express themselves with their golfing attire.
"I remember that whole day," said 2001 U.S. PGA champion David Toms as he reflected on the last round of the 1999 U.S. Open.
"What I remember most is the fact that Payne cut the sleeves off his rain suit. It was just that mentality that 'it's the U.S. Open, I'm grinding, I'm going to do what I have to play great'.
"A guy with the mentality that Payne had, he never gave up, never gave in. He was a bulldog type of guy."
"And the NFL uniform stuff that he used to wear all the time ...that was always interesting, seeing what he was going to come out with the next day.
"Certainly he's going to be remembered for what he did at Pinehurst and the U.S. Open, but there were a lot of things he did for the game of golf that are probably overlooked.
"I think he was the one guy that did something different with his attire and everything and presented himself in that way.
"More and more guys are doing that, trying to make a statement by what they're wearing. He was one of the guys that started that."