There haven't been too many special times since he sealed his win at the 1995 U.S. Open with a dramatic 4-wood on the final hole. He hasn't won a tournament since the Colonial the next year and the last few seasons have been spotty at best as he struggled with his swing.
Everything was upbeat again at Shinnecock Hills as Pavin shot a 1-over 71 Friday and was at 2-under 138 after two rounds, four strokes off the lead held by Phil Mickelson and Shigeki Maruyama.
'Anytime I come back to a course I've done well on, I have a good feeling about that tournament or that golf course,' the 44-year-old Pavin said. 'It doesn't matter if it's Shinnecock Hills and a U.S. Open or Colonial or Riveria or anywhere else that I've won. I feel good and it's a comfortable golf course and there's a lot to be said for being comfortable on a golf course.'
The 5-foot-9 Pavin's hair is shorter and grayer than it was that Sunday in 1995 when he jumped in the air to see how close his shot from 228 yards got. It finished 5 feet from the hole and he would beat Greg Norman by two strokes.
'The way to play the golf course hasn't changed tremendously,' he said. 'It's a lot firmer. It's playing a lot faster out there. The course is playing a lot shorter, but that doesn't mean it's playing easier. I think the course was playing easier in '95 than it is now, but we don't have the wind.'
Pavin does have some added distance, though.
He hit a driver to set up the 4-wood in 1995. On Friday, he hit a 3-wood off the tee and then a 5-iron to set up a two-putt par. He said if he had to hit the shot from 1995 again, he would probably use a 5-wood this time.
'I think it's a difference in technology and hopefully my swing is better. That has something to do with it, and maybe I'm in better shape,' he said. 'Add it all up together and maybe it's a club difference.'
Pavin won't allow himself to get caught up in being in contention to win a second Open.
'I'm not going to think about it a whole lot,' he said. 'I'm going to go out and do what I've been doing the last two days. Just hit every shot as good as I can, focus on each shot and play the most intelligent shot I can at that time, and just see how I am. I don't see any reason to change that.'
Pavin, who has been working for the past eight months with swing coach Butch Harmon, said he lost confidence when his swing 'went south.' Is the U.S. Open - and especially a course like Shinnecock with its deep heather and fast greens - the best place to try and find it?
'I don't know if this is the place, but any place is the place,' he said. 'I just need to go out and execute and play some golf and that's what I'm trying to do now.'
And he's doing with a lot of support from the fans.
'I love the fans. They've been fantastic to me,' he said. 'The New York fans are vocal and thank goodness what they're saying to me is good.'
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