This year, the USGA went even further to remember the two-time Open champ, unveiling a flag with Stewart's likeness that will be used on the 18th green in the final round.
'Payne Stewart, in his own, unique way, represented all that is best about this game, about its spirits and its traditions,' USGA president Fred Ridley said Tuesday at a ceremony in Stewart's memory. 'And we will forever remember how his victory renewed our passion for this wonderful game.'
Stewart has been gone for more than 5 1/2 years, one of six people who died when a private jet presumably lost cabin pressure and incapacitated all aboard, then flew uncontrolled across the country until it ran out of fuel and plunged into a South Dakota pasture.
His statue at Pinehurst sits near the 18th green on a knoll near the pro shop, and so far this week, streams of fans have been drawn to it. The pose is vintage Stewart - arm raised, left leg dangling in the air - and the image is one that always be associated with his one-shot victory that year over Phil Mickelson.
'All the people who he has touched, who have had an opportunity to get to know him, Payne Stewart lives in those people,' Mickelson said at the ceremony. 'He lives in my heart and will continue to push me to strive to become a better professional, a better father and a better husband. And I miss him.'
Ridley also presented Pinehurst Resort president Don Padgett II a hole liner with Stewart's likeness, and later gave Dick Coop, a representative of the family, the U.S. Open champion ring that was being prepared for Stewart when he died.
'It is altogether fitting and proper that this award should be made in Pinehurst, because Payne was very, very fond of the people of Pinehurst and this area,' Coop said. 'It's also fitting that this award is made here in Pinehurst by the USGA, because it was here at Pinehurst that Payne finally made his peace with the USGA. Sand-filled divots and hole locations aside, Payne realized how hard their job was, and that he should practice under the conditions he would face in the tournament.'
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