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Rejuvenated Pavin Takes Colonial Lead With 64

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Corey Pavin breathed a huge sigh of relief, then turned toward the scoreboard which showed he had shot a 64 Friday. It was back in 1999 when he shot 64 the last time, in the second round of this very same MasterCard Colonial tournament, where par is 70.
 
Yes, he led that tournament, just as he leads this one. And forget for a moment that he wound up in a tie for 11th after a third-round 74. It is good, he says, to be back.
 
His score of 8-under-par 132 is one better than first-round co-leader Phil Mickelson, who shot a 68 Friday and Brett Quigley, who matched Pavin's 64.
 
Considering where Pavin has been since 1996 ' finishing better than 150th on the money list only once ' that 64 was an awfully good feeling.
 
Yeah, Im pleased ' very pleased, he said, noting the 64 included eight birdies and two bogeys, one on the final hole. Anytime you make eight birdies at Colonial, thats a good thing. Anytime you make eight birdies anywhere, thats a good thing.
 
Rocco Mediate had the days low score, shooting 62 and standing at 6-under. But Pavin was the subject of all the conversation Friday. Colonial was the last tournament he won ' in 96 ' and he also won in 1985. That was when he was still one of the premiere players in golf.
 
Pavin ranks 180th and last in driving distance on the PGA Tour at a scant 246 yards a try, but he hit both of Colonials par-5s in two whacks, and the 11th is a major-league whack of 609 yards. The 41-year-old three-time Ryder Cupper has seen his distance steadily dwindle since 96 ' and he wasnt exactly a gorilla before that. He has returned to Bruce Hamilton, head pro at Camarillo Country Club in California, this year, and he says his distance is slowly but surely getting back to previous levels.
 
Im starting to regain the length that I had been losing the past five years, Pavin said. Ive averaged close to 300 yards the last two days. I think the things that Bruce has been saying is finally starting to kick in.
 
At the same time he was losing distance, Pavin, one of the Tours most accurate putters, was missing at a more frequent clip. When you lose your vaunted short game and you never had much of a long game, that isnt a very good recipe for success.
 
But my putting has really come around this year, he said. I worked with Bruce the first time at AT&T this year, and he got me really rolling it well. Im not sure what the stats show (tie for 11th), but the short game has really improved.
 
Pavin hit a 6-iron ' a 6-iron! ' over the 246-yard fourth hole. He made bogey there, as well as 18, when he hit a tree with his tee shot. He birdied the first three holes of the day, then added another three in a row at nine, 10 and 11. Along the way he made putts of 45 feet, 30 feet and 25 feet.
 
I feel a lot more comfortable on the golf course than I have in a long time. My swing, Id say, is probably better than it ever has been. I hit a lot of quality shots yesterday (when he shot 68), it seemed like I had a lot of eight-and-10 feet putts. I had longer putts today, but I made them, he said.
 
Just being back on these grounds is enough to inspire Pavin to do things he could only imagine.
 
Obviously just coming back to Colonial helps me, he said. I like this course. My record shows that. When I come back here, I feel more comfortable. This course does that to you.
 
Of course, he has been so far down that he hardly felt comfortable anywhere. Put bad golf together with a failed marriage and a move from Florida back to California, and thats a lot of life changes for one person to absorb.
 
Im playing with so much more confidence now, as opposed to the last five years, said Pavin. Being back with my old coach has really helped.
 
But beginning with 1996, its really been difficult. I do know what its like to be way down. Ive been down long enough to appreciate what the good times were like in 1991 to 1996. It sneaks into your mind (that you wont achieve your previous form), but Ive tried to fight that stuff. I never really got to the point that I wanted to quit or anything. I never gave up on myself. But there were times when you really had to wonder.
 
The hottest group of the day was Mediate and playing partner Blaine McCallister. Mediate had eight birdies and nary a bogey. McCallister, another one who has struggled of late, made seven birdies and one bogey.
 
All three ' Mediate, McCallister and Pavin ' played in the morning when the weather conditions were benign. But most of Mediates birdies came on long putts ' he made two in the 30-foot range and another five in the 15-foot range.
 
Its really something to shoot a 64 and lose by two to your partner, said a laughing McCallister. I shot a front-side 32 and he shot a 30. I just cant seem to get the limelight by myself.
 
McCallister has missed the cut in eight of his last 10 events. What has he been working on during the drought?
 
My television position, mostly, said McCallister. Gosh, I have had a lot of time off of the weekends. I sit this way, then that way. Ive really been fighting it.
 
Full-field scores from the MasterCard Colonial