Popgun Pavin Fires Biggest Shot
Corey played Nick Faldo head-up when Nick was in his prime, and beat him in the finals of the World Match Play in 1993 ' in England, no less. During the same period, he stared down Fred Couples, again one of the worlds best players, in a playoff at the Honda Classic in 93. In fact, he won five off his first six playoffs. He won the U.S. Open in 95, and compiled an 8-5 career Ryder Cup record, the highlight being a match in 1995 in which he chipped in on the final hole to defeat Faldo and Bernhard Langer.
We have heard precious little from Pavin the last 10 years. He had become the poster child for all references to puny driving, and he tried to change his game a little to compensate. Wrong move, as he was about to discover.
His personal life about this time also unraveled. His long marriage ended and he lived a nomads life for a time, leaving his longtime residence in Orlando, Fla., before finally remarrying and settling near Dallas. All these changes meant Pavin was destined to bounce hither and yon, doomed to year-end finishes such as 169th, 160th, 150th, 111th and 108th.
This is the backdrop where we found Pavin, who had all the earmarks of a 46-year-old golfing has-been, at the beginning of last week. Then, in the space of four days, Corey set a PGA TOUR nine-hole scoring record of 26, led a tournament wire-to-wire, and captured the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.
In so doing, Pavin had to defeat a homegrown son to win the title ' Jerry Kelly of nearby Madison finished second before a wildly enthusiastic home crowd. Ironically, in his first tour win in 1984, Pavin had to pull the same trick. It was there, in Houston, that he defeated Houstonian John Mahaffey, who led the tournament going into the final round. And then, lest you forget, there was the matter of Faldo in England.
Corey has been a personal favorite of mine for almost 20 years, so perhaps youll forgive me for crowing just a little. Despite his difficulties the past 10 years, not once has Pavin forgotten his manners, not once has he forgotten what friendship means. Not once has he changed his upbeat persona, not once has he failed to smile and utter pleasant salutations.
But I digress. This renaissance of Pavins began three years ago when he threw himself at the mercy of swing coach Butch Harmon. Pavin never will launch his drives 350 yards ' he currently is averaging 264 and change, 197th and last among the players who are ranked in the tour driving statistics. Predictably, he was last at Milwaukee. But his drives certainly are higher and carry further, paramount on the tour courses which are pock-marked with fairway bunkers.
And hes finished in the top 30 or better in five of the last eight tournaments. That may not seem to be a bragging point. But when you have finished down around 120, 130 or 140 for much of the last decade, this is a real confidence booster. And at Hartford in his last start preceding Milwaukee, he finished 11th.
The situation, at least as far as golf is concerned, has brightened considerably for the 46-year-old Pavin.
'These last 10 years and the journey mean everything to me,' he said. 'I always feel like every part of our lives means something and builds character of some kind. That's what I feel happened over these 10 years. I've never given up on myself and it felt so good to prove to myself that I could still win.'
Pavin chose a perfect time ' his 95 win at the U.S. Open gave him a 10-year exemption. This is the final year. But after the Milwaukee win, he gets two more years. By then he will be almost 49, and he becomes a senior at the age of 50.
He and wife Lisa have a great life together now, living in the heartland and experiencing the day-to-day existence of a happy couple in suburbia, regardless of what happens on the golf course. But he is a golfer at heart, a man who needs his occupation. And despite the downturn of fortunes the last decade, his work with Harmon has slowly started to reverse the downward trend.
Things are starting to click a little bit. I'm getting more comfortable. I'm hitting the ball better, he said.
Last year I played a lot better. The whole year was a lot more consistent, and it's just working hard and hopefully working on the right things. And the changes I made with Butch were pretty good changes in my swing. It takes time to get those to a comfortablish kind of point, and I'm getting more and more comfortable and feeling a little bit better.
His putting is what has held him back this year ' this from a man who was absolutely deadly with the roller for the better part of 20 years. But he reunited with his old caddy, Eric Schwartz, recently and Schwartz spotted the problem immediately ' His alignment was real bad,' Schwarz said. 'It took about two, three hours to get him straightened out.'
But he was first in the putting stats at Milwaukee. And if he continues to feel comfortable with the revamped swing ' well, who knows?
Frank Lickliter, who was in the Milwaukee field, says that overlooking Pavin the rest of the year would be a huge mistake.
'Yeah, he's 46 years old, but he's got a huge heart,' Lickliter said. 'And the man has got a lot of talent. A lot of talent. I couldn't think of a better competitor to beat.'
As for Corey, he is thrilled that his career has been rejuvenated when he is on the back side of 40. And he hopes that the rejuvenation doesnt stop anytime soon.
I hope it never ends, he said. I love playing. I don't really want to stop playing. If I have to, obviously I will. You know, I still feel like I've got a lot of game left in me. The Champions Tour is ahead. Still five years away for me. I see myself probably playing there.
I don't want to stop playing. I enjoy it. I love playing golf. It's frustrating, just like it is for everybody else. But when I do play well, it's a lot of fun.
Email your thoughts to George White
Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ
Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.
President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
After Turkey call I will be heading over to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, to play golf (quickly) with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.
Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong
HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.
Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.
''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''
Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.
Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.
''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''
Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).
''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''
Day (68) just one back at Australian Open
Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.
Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)
What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.
Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.
Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.
Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.
Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball
Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.
In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.
"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’
Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.
“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.
“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’
Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.