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Sunday, June 20, 1999 Published at 23:30 GMT 00:30 UK

Stewart snatches US Open

Winning start: Payne Stewart launches a drive during his triumphant round

Payne Stewart sank an 18-foot putt at the very last hole to snatch the US Open title in thrilling fashion at the Pinehurst course.

BBC Radio 5 Live's James Porter: "It was a thrilling finish to a magnificent championship"
The 1991 champion, who was branded a "choker" last year when he threw away a four-shot lead, held his nerve to beat playing partner Phil Mickelson by just one stroke.

Stewart's scrambled par at the 18th gave him a final round 70 for a one-under total of 279. He was the only player to break par over the four rounds.

[ image: Phil Mickelson squandered a two-shot lead with three to play]
Phil Mickelson squandered a two-shot lead with three to play
Stewart had duelled all day with Mickelson in one of the great head-to-head battles of recent years on a frighteningly challenging course.

Tiger Woods finished joint third after his challenge faltered with two terrible missed putts on the back nine.

Darren Clarke was the best placed European, in tenth spot on eight over, while Scotland's Colin Montgomerie birdied the last for a 72 to finish two shots further back.

Mickelson misses out

Mickelson and Stewart traded blows throughout the final round.

Left-hander Mickelson, who carried a bleeper with him with his wife Amy due to give birth to their first child, was in pole position in the closing stages, with a two-shot lead over Stewart.

But fortunes spun around at the 16th, when Stewart saved par with a 35ft putt and Mickelson missed from 8ft.

A birdie two for Stewart at the 17th gave him the outright lead, but when he fluffed his drive at the 18th the championship looked to be heading for an 18-hole play-off on Monday.

But Mickelson could only make a par four at the last - and Stewart took his chance in dramatic style, the ball travelling up an enormous slope and curving into the hole.

Tearful triumph

[ image: Agony for Tiger Woods as he sees another putt slip by]
Agony for Tiger Woods as he sees another putt slip by
Stewart was overcome with emotion after claiming his third Major title.

Choking back the tears, the 42-year-old said: "I could never give up out there. Phil played unbelievable and he'll win the title one day.

"I read the putt and I knew it was inside left. I've made some good putts and I just said 'give yourself a chance', and wow, it went in."

Woods faded away after seeing a two-and-a-half footer fly by the hole at the 11th and then missing from three-and-a-half feet at the 17th.

The 1997 Masters champion carded a level-par 70 to end the week on one over, alongside Fiji's Vijay Singh, whose 69 was the only below-par round of the day.

Clarke leads Europeans home

[ image: Darren Clarke shows a steady hand to finish as top European]
Darren Clarke shows a steady hand to finish as top European
Ulsterman Clarke produced a gutsy final round of 71 and pronounced himself satisfied with his week's work after another arduous day on the Pinehurst greens.

"I'm pretty pleased," he said. "You've got to take the rough with the smooth.

"I was very disciplined and I'm progressing well. If I can keep it going I think I'll be able to challenge for any title.

"This is a stern course but fair, and the crowd appreciate that."

Daly storm

Wayward American John Daly slammed US Open organisers and criticised the Pinehurst course following an atrocious final round.

[ image: John Daly throws his club away in disgust after hitting 11 at the eighth]
John Daly throws his club away in disgust after hitting 11 at the eighth
The former Open champion, who carded an 11 at one hole as he finished an amazing 29 over par, fumed: "I don't know if I will play another US Open.

"I'm not going to Pebble Beach next year and watch the USGA ruin that course.

"The courses are set up too unfair. The USGA want to embarrass the players. It's not golf - it's crazy.

"From now on, my majors will be the other three and the Players' Championship."

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