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It will be the kid against the champs on today in the third round of the U.S. Open.

And the edge so far goes to the kid, 28-year-old Lee Janzen, who matched a record for 36 holes and has a two-shot advantage.But the champs, former U.S. Open winners Tom Watson and Payne Stewart and current PGA champion Nick Price, are in position to apply pressure in the lowest-scoring Open of them all.

Janzen, who took control Friday with a second consecutive 67 and tied Jack Nicklaus' record of 134 for 36 holes, knows it will be a battle of nerves as much as golf.

"They've all won majors," Janzen said. "They know what they have to do.

"I know what I have to do, keep my emotions under control, be patient and play one shot at a time."

That could be difficult.

Janzen, winner of two titles in four seasons as a touring pro, was one of four who shared the first-round lead in the Masters two months ago. But he couldn't handle it, falling three back after two rounds and playing the final 36 holes in 153.

"I was not too happy with the way I played after the first round," he said, but insisted he has matured since then.

He is paired for today's third round with Watson, who, among other extraordinary credentials, will captain the 1993 U.S. Ryder Cup team that Janzen is trying to make."I'll be nervous enough," Janzen said. "I'll just try to get it airborne."

Watson, 43, also had to battle some nerves in compiling a 66 to tie Stewart at 136. Stewart also had a 4-under-par effort over the sweltering Baltusrol Golf Club course.

Price, from Zimbabwe, also shot 66 and was tied at 137 with Corey Pavin, who had a 69.

Scott Hoch was next at 138 after a 72, and was followed at 139 by Bob Gilder, Jeff Maggert, Fred Couples, Paul Azinger, Billy Andrade and Mike Standly. Andrade shot 67, Azinger 68, Standly and Gilder 69, Maggert 70 and Couples 71.

John Daly used a driver and 1-iron - very nearly coming out of his shoes on the latter swing - to become the first man ever to reach the uphill, 630-yard, par-5 17th hole in two.

"I'd been playing so badly that I told my caddy that if I reach 17, at least I'll make history," Daly said.

He also made birdie and went on to a 68. At 140, he was even par for two rounds and very much in contention.

The anticipated threat by the foreign players who have dominated world golf in recent years hasn't materialized. Among the leaders, all but Price are Americans. And Price, who now resides in Florida and plays most of his golf in this country, said he considers himself "an American player."

Europeans not only didn't rise to the occasion, but many failed to qualify for the final two rounds. A score of 144, one shot lower than the previous record set at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., in 1989, was necessary to make it.

Among the casualties were Masters champion Bernhard Langer of Germany, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain, Greg Norman of Australia and Vijay Singh of Fiji, who won last week's Westchester tournament. It was the first time in 14 tournaments in the U.S. and Europe this year that Singh missed a cut.

Defending champion Tom Kite birdied the final hole for a 70 but missed the cut at 145.

That's the same total put up by Joey Sindelar, one of three who shared the first-round lead. He went from a 66 to a 79.

Janzen, possessed of a solid swing and a tunnel-vision approach to the game, has improved each season and this year appears to have come of age. He won early in the season at Phoenix and has four other top-10 finishes, the most recent a third last week in U.S. Open-type conditions at Westchester.

"I've definitely matured," Janzen said. "My game is improving constantly. I haven't peaked. I have a long way to go."

He took a big step in the right direction Friday with three consecutive birdies beginning on the 11th. The first two were on putts of about 20 feet, and the last was set up by an 8-iron approach to about 6 feet.

There's no question he can play - he ranks seventh in earnings - but now it is a question of nerves.

Watson knows all about nerves. He's been battling the putting yips for most of the seven seasons since he won his last American title, and they surfaced again Friday when he missed a 3-foot par putt on the second hole.

"I got angry with myself," Watson said. "I had a pretty good little talk with myself.

"I said, `What the heck are you doing this for? This is a game out here. Don't get so frustrated on the short putts. I'm not going to fail this time.'

"So I sucked it up a little," he said.

After two-putting from 40 feet for par on the sixth hole, he got in a little practice. Practice during a round isn't allowed on the PGA Tour, but the U.S. Golf Association stipulates only that practice not delay players hitting to the green.

"I hit eight or 10 practice putts and made a little adjustment in my stance," Watson said. "It worked."

He birdied the seventh from 20 feet and the eighth from about 10. Perhaps more importantly, he made a 3-foot second putt - one of those that has caused him so much misery in recent years - on the 10th, then dropped 6-foot par putts on the next two holes.

He hit a wedge inside a foot on the 14th, ran in a slick, downhill 20-footer on the 16th and chipped to tap-in range on the final hole.

"I still feel tournament tough, tournament ready," said Watson. "I still think I can win."

Stewart, who has been in contention on an almost constant basis this year, knows he can.

"I know I can win this tournament because I've won it before," he said.

He's playing solidly, missing only two fairways and two greens on Friday. His only bogey came on a three-putt at the 17th.