Lee Janzen was 17 and watching the 1982 U.S. Open with his parents. This was a Sunday shootout between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at Pebble Beach, and Watson finally swung it in his favor by chipping in on the 17th hole.

Watson’s joyous reaction to the shot that gave him a lone U.S. Open victory remains a famous golf moment all these decades later. The happiness was duplicated in the Janzens’ TV room.

“My parents had a ceiling fan that was about 12 feet off the floor,’’ Janzen said. “I almost hit that fan, I jumped so high when Watson chipped in. Tom Watson was the guy I always rooted for when watching majors on television.’’

Friday's 3M Championship tee times

Janzen recalled this on the Sunday after the 1993 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, when he had chipped in from off the 16th green to take control in a final-pairing duel with Payne Stewart.

One day earlier, Janzen had been paired for the third round with Watson, his hero of majors past. What was that like?

“I had played with Tom in the Masters that year, so that helped calm me down,’’ Janzen said. “When I look back on it now, it’s more amazing: me with Tom Watson in the last group on Saturday at a major.’’

Janzen was hitting shots on the driving range at TPC Twin Cities this week, a few minutes before the start of his pro-am round in the 25th 3M Championship. He won that U.S. Open over Stewart by two shots, and he won another U.S. Open by one shot over Stewart at the Olympic Club in 1998.

Stewart won a second U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 1999 (also: 1991 Hazeltine), and then died four months later in a plane crash.

“There are only nine men alive on the planet who can say they won two U.S. Opens,’’ a reporter said.

Janzen stepped back from a practice shot and said: “Is that the number … nine?’’ And then he counted off the living players on his fingers: Jack Nicklaus (four), Hale Irwin (three), Tiger Woods (three), Andy North (two), Curtis Strange (two), Ernie Els (two) and Retief Goosen (two).

“Who am I missing?’’ Janzen said.

Trevino. “That’s right,’’ he said. “Lee won two … at Oak Hill [1968] and Merion [1971],’’ Janzen said.

There will be a majority of these living winners of multiple U.S. Opens this weekend at the 3M: Janzen will be in the regular event staring Friday, and Nicklaus, Trevino, Irwin and North will be playing in the Greats of Golf exhibition on Saturday.

North, now 67, remains the incredible figure on the list. He won three times on the PGA Tour, and the last two of those were the U.S. Opens in 1978 and 1985.

Janzen won eight times on the PGA Tour from 1992 to 1998. That’s pretty good, when you consider Tom Lehman, the greatest of Minnesota golfers, had five official wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1996 British Open.

That pair does have this in common: Both were born in Austin, Minn., about 5 ½ years apart. Lehman’s family moved to Alexandria, and he became Minnesota’s favorite golfing son. Janzen’s family moved to Baltimore when he was 3.

“We moved into a Baltimore neighborhood with kids my age in every house,’’ Janzen said. “You could get a baseball game or a football game going in a yard in five minutes. I wanted to be a ballplayer.’’

The family moved to Florida when he was 12, and Lee’s father put him onto golf. Eventually, he took four whacks at qualifying school before making the tour, and in his third season, at age 27, moved up to ninth on the earnings list.

The last of eight wins came in the 1998 U.S. Open. He was seven shots behind Stewart after the third hole of the final round. The comeback could have been stymied early, when Janzen’s tee ball on No. 5 went into a large fir tree and stayed there.

Then came a gust of wind, and the ball tumbled from the tree. Janzen was able to make a par rather than what would’ve been a double bogey.

On his occasional returns to the Olympic Club, does he bow to the fir tree?

“They took out a lot of trees,’’ Janzen said. “I think that was one.’’

Sacrilege. That tree helped crown a two-time U.S. Open champion, and there aren’t many of those: nine on the planet, and five at TPC Twin Cities this weekend.


Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. E-mail: preusse@startribune.com