The final day, the final hour, the final minute of the playoff all were heart-stopping moments when so many players had a chance to win, looked briefly at the lead and then stumbled. Mark Brooks, Billy Ray Brown, Keith Clearwater, Raymond Floyd and Blaine McCallister each had their chances. Couples could have won it. Pavin did, and one more bit of drama was added to his resume.
Just call me David, laughed Pavin after it was over and he had collected the scalps of Couples, Nick Faldo, and the five guys who finished only a stroke out of the playoff. But for a while, you could call him Wrong Way Corrigan for the way he was headed after the events at No. 15.
It was at 15 that Pavin nearly blew himself out of the tournament. He had been in the lead most of the final round, but suffered a real hiccup at that point with a double bogey when his approach shot wound up in a near-impossible lie. The double sent Pavin reeling down the ladder and opened up the tournament for a fistful of players.
I wasnt upset by it, said Pavin. I know that the second shot ended up in the worst possible place it could. I said, Well give it the best shot I can. Again, I didnt get upset. If Im out there getting upset, then Im not giving it my best effort.
So Pavin regrouped and parred Nos. 16 and 17, and then it was time to play the par-5 closing hole, a 585-yard twister with a green just beyond a pond. By now the lead had passed to Brooks, who was three ahead of Pavin. Couples was one shot ahead of Pavin. Brooks and Couples were playing the 16th while Pavin was in the middle of the fairway on 18, sizing up his third shot.
He pulled his 8-iron and stroked it.
I hit the shot and I was watching it, remembered Pavin. I thought, Now this is really straight. It never left the pin.
I heard a clunk (when the ball hit the flagstick) and held my breath, because some of them have popped out. But it stayed.
The hole-out meant Pavin had eagled 18. And when Brooks bogeyed minutes later, Pavin was tied for the lead. Brooks bogeyed again and was out of competition after another hole.
Pavin led Couples by one, but Couples birdied the 18th, too, and forced a playoff. It was Pavin and Couples to the tee, more like the storied duels this pair had at Riviera in the early 90s.
The two players both parred the first playoff hole, then came to the 18th again. On the green, Couples was 20 feet from the flag while Pavin was 15 feet away.
Pavin eyed Couples effort intently as it rolled up to the cup ' then the effort died on the lip.
I said, I have to hit it a little harder than I think, Pavin recalled. So I hit it a lot harder than I had originally meant to. It was about 1-feet harder than normal, but it was perfect speed.
When it came off the putterhead, I thought I had it. When I hit it, I said, This thing has a great chance.
The ball broke a couple of inches left-to-right and went dead straight into the hole. Pavin had won, his fifth playoff victory in six tries.
Couples had gotten into a position that was not what he really wanted, either A), in going into a playoff, or B), in getting into a putting match with Pavin.
From 120 yards in, hes probably better than me, said Fred. On the putting green, I KNOW hes better than me.
The late Payne Stewart knew better than to mix it up with Pavin. Hes got a lot of heart, Stewart said. He just knows how to win. He gets in situations and he wins.