Par Excellence

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BETHESDA, Maryland: With eight holes to play, the 1997 U.S. Open stood deadlocked among four players, all at a modest four under par. Three of them gave. Colin Montgomerie missed a five-footer at seventeen to drop to three under, then failed to birdie the par three 18th. Tom Lehman's approach shot to the 17th green bounced on the slope and rolled into the water, and Jeff Maggert simply disintegrated, three- and four-putting greens until he finished a distant fourth at one over par. The last man standing was Ernie Els, alone at four under after five straight pars, hoisting his second U.S. Open trophy in three years. After birdies on three of the five make-up holes this morning, Els emerged from the foursome not with telegenic derring-do but with hole after hole of consistent play. "Funny things happen in majors," the 27-year-old Els said afterward. "You've just got to hang in there. At U.S. Opens, you just try to make par."