He U.S. open, like life itself, is what you make of it. On opposite ends of the spectrum as the players prepare for Pinehurst are Lee Janzen and Fred Couples. Janzen, the defending champ, also won in 1993, and when he tees it up next week he'll be staring down history because only five men have won the title as many as three times. Couples, though he loves the challenge of the Open and Pinehurst, will not even be fully focused on golf.
Janzen can't wait for the Open because he always seems to play so well in it. In addition to his two victories he has had a couple of close calls. He came in 13th in 1995, when a double bogey on the 71st hole cost him, and tied for 10th in '96 despite a triple bogey early in the week. Janzen's also confident because he thinks he has an edge. "A lot of guys are trying to figure out the secret, racking their brains and pressing hard," he says. "I feel like I know something that they don't."
And what might that be? Simple. "There is no secret," Janzen says. "You act like it's not even a tournament. Just enjoy the course. If you play well, you play well. If you don't, you don't. Just don't worry about it."
On the surface, someone as laid-back as Couples would seem perfectly suited to take that bit of advice to heart, but instead he already sounds defeated. "Winning would be close to an upset," he says. "The Open isn't a tournament that I've ever gone to feeling like I was going to win."
Last week's Memorial, in which he finished tied for 59th, was only Couples's third start since the Masters, and he isn't furiously prepping for Pinehurst. The reason has nothing to do with the Open. The King of the Couch has clicked the remote, and the Golf Channel is off and the Family Channel is on. "I'm not into golf right now," Couples says. "I know my time has semi-passed. I'm not quitting, I just don't feel like beating my brains out practicing."
There are three things more important than golf to Couples: his wife, Thais, and her two children, GiGi, eight, and Oliver, five. When Couples married Thais last year he had an instant family—just add water. Couples, 39, had wanted a family for a long time, and the new additions to his life helped offset recent subtractions. His mother, Violet, had died on Mother's Day in 1994, just a few weeks after being diagnosed with cancer, and his father, Tom, succumbed to leukemia on Thanksgiving in 1997, the same year Thais was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she beat.
Suddenly, Couples is a father, and it's an opportunity he relishes. "If I'd had kids when I was 25 or 30, I would not be anywhere near the player I am," he says. "I've been at Jay Haas's house and seen his son look up and say, 'Dad, do you have to go already?' That's hard for my kids, too, because they've never been around golf. I have chosen to stick around because that's what I want to do. It's a lot of fun to go to softball and soccer games and to the park and the zoo."
When he was single and alone, Couples would hit balls three times a week, mostly out of boredom. "I never felt like I was lost when I came back out on Tour," he says. "When I teed off on Thursday, I knew I was going to play well."
That has changed. Now he has better things to do than practice when he's home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and his game hasn't been as sharp. After a practice round before the Memorial, he admitted that every shot was a struggle. "If you don't work on your game, you're not going to beat David Duval and Davis Love," Couples says. "I'm not done playing golf, but I want to have a good time. I've been doing this since I was 20. That's a long time. You never give up, but right now I'm playing just to be playing."
The 34-year-old Janzen, who took off this week so he could work on his game at home in Orlando, will be ready for the Open. He hits high, soft iron shots, has good distance control and a sweet short game, and plays smart. He'll be among the favorites.