By Mark Lamport-Stokes
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Washington (Reuters) - Twice former champion Lee Janzen will be competing in his first U.S. Open in seven years this week at Chambers Bay, having earned his spot the hard way.
The 50-year-old American booked his place in the season's second major after leading the way in a sectional qualifier in New York eight days ago, though many of his rivals wondered why he had even bothered to tee it up as a senior golfer.
"Like why would I try and qualify for an 8,000-yard golf course, because I'm playing with old guys now? No, I wanted to qualify all along," Janzen told reporters while preparing for Thursday's opening round at Chambers Bay.
"I know there will be a day when I'll just say that's it. I'm okay with not playing, I'm okay with not even trying to qualify. So, yeah, I am here on purpose. I actually tried to get here."
Janzen, who clinched his first victory on the over-50s Champions Tour at the ACE Group Classic in February, headed four qualifiers in Purchase, New York after shooting scores of 69 and 68 at Century Country Club and Old Oaks Country Club.
"I would say more than half the guys last week, they said, 'Hey, congratulations qualifying,' and then added a comment," said the American, who won the U.S. Open in 1993 and 1998.
"And it was usually like, 'What were you thinking? Why do you want to go play against all those flat bellies that hit it 350 yards on a course that you have to hit it 350 yards?' But ultimately they all said 'I wish I was going, too'."
Janzen, who has not competed in a U.S. Open since he missed the cut at Torrey Pines in 2008, cherishes his two major victories.
"Regardless of how many wins I have, that is always the one that is mentioned first when my career is talked about, if I go somewhere and they want to announce you," said the eight-time PGA Tour champion.
Janzen will tee off in Thursday's opening round in the company of fellow American Oliver Schniederjans, the world's top-ranked amateur, and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke.
(Editing by Andrew Both)