Pavin brings quiet determination to Ryder Cup

By Doug FergusonSeptember 25, 2010, 6:54 pm
Ryder Cup

NORTON, Massachusetts – Corey Pavin never saw Jim Furyk sneaking up behind him, nor did he flinch when Furyk slammed the back end of a golf club into the vinyl cushion on the locker room bench where Pavin sat.

Pavin slowly turned to see Furyk smiling at him.

“Wait until Friday of the Ryder Cup,” Furyk said to his American captain. “You’ll be jumpy.”

“I think I’ll be all right,” Pavin said with a grin, but barely a pulse.

Pavin is not one to get flustered easily, whether he’s hitting a 4-wood from the 18th fairway at Shinnecock Hills with the U.S. Open on the line, staring down a TV reporter in an awkward argument, or standing over a tough chip on the final hole of a Ryder Cup match.

He’s been that way his whole career.

“The oxymoron is he’s kind of quiet,” said Paul Goydos, one of Pavin’s assistant captains at the Ryder Cup. “Here’s this unbelievably aggressive, self-confident guy – and he’s quiet. He scraps and battles, but he never yells. He plays as this tough-as-nails linebacker in the mud. His game is like a bulldog. And his demeanor is quiet.”

That’s what Pavin brings as U.S. captain to the Ryder Cup, which starts Friday at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales. Few others have played with so much determination and self-belief when it was all they had.

The Americans are underdogs at this Ryder Cup, which is only appropriate considering whom they have as a captain, the ultimate underdog. In a game that can resemble a battle of bazookas, Pavin carried a pop gun. His ammunition was confidence, and he never ran out.

To look only at his abilities led to questions of how he could survive on tour.

“I’ve got a limited amount of talent,” Pavin said. “But I use everything I have to play the game. There’s certainly guys who are more physically gifted than me. What I like about me when I play golf is I never give up. I’m always looking for a positive thing to happen.”

Despite being one of the shortest hitters, he managed to win 15 times on the PGA Tour including the 1995 U.S. Open. He made the first of his three Ryder Cup teams in 1991, the year he led the PGA Tour money list.

Without prompting, Tiger Woods referred to him as “one of the greatest players ever, considering what he had to work with.”

Goydos has heard that line before. He recalls comments earlier this year by John Mallinger and John Merrick, who were paired with Pavin in tournaments about a month apart. Both went to their swing coach and said, “He’s the best player I’ve ever seen play golf.”

“Where he shoots 67 and 68 from compared with where I’m shooting 70 from is unfathomable,” Goydos said. “At Hartford this year, Bubba (Watson) hit it 100 yards past him in the playoff, and Corey still didn’t think that he couldn’t win. He’s got that mentality of ‘I’m going to win with what I’ve got. You try to beat me.’

“What others see as a shortcoming, he sees as the ultimate challenge.”

Pavin has heard that about as long as he has been playing. Not long enough off the tee. Not good enough for the PGA Tour.

Only once did he think about quitting, as a teenager when he wasn’t shooting the kind of scores he expected. His father encouraged him to not be so hard on himself and to stick with it. The next year, Pavin won enough to get the attention of UCLA.

“I think I learned a good lesson back then,” he said. “I just have to believe in myself. That’s a huge thing for me.”

Even when he failed to get his card right away and had to play overseas, he found confidence not in where he played but whom he beat. The first victory was the South African PGA, where he held off a rising star named Nick Price. That got him onto the European Tour, where he closed out his summer by winning the German Open over Seve Ballesteros.

“We all have a certain amount of ability, and you can only maximize what you have,” Pavin said. “If you take me on paper and put me on tour, you’d think I would be off tour in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t last out here. But we don’t play on paper. We play with our hearts and our minds. I’ve just worked hard and played hard. And my career has been OK.”

Pavin played in only three Ryder Cups, but he took to the matches immediately. He made his debut at Kiawah Island, beating Steven Richardson in singles on a day every point mattered.

He won three of his four team matches in 1993, none of the matches reaching the 17th hole. His Ryder Cup moment came at Oak Hill in 1995, when he and Loren Roberts were all square against Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer. Pavin chipped in for the birdie that won the match.

“My favorite memory of him in the Ryder Cup is Oak Hill – and watching him running up the dunes to see where he was aiming at Kiawah,” Davis Love III said. “He was always having to chip over hills and bunkers, but he just kept fighting away.”

Pavin gets dwarfed at the Ryder Cup by his European counterpart, Colin Montgomerie, whose personality is everything Pavin’s is not. Montgomerie has a quick wit. Pavin has dry humor. Montgomerie can switch from self-deprecation to disgust within minutes. Pavin never loses his cool.

He came close at the PGA Championship, then TV reporter Jim Gray stormed into the media center to challenge him. Gray had reported that Pavin told him he was taking Woods as a captain’s pick. Pavin countered that he never said such a thing. As Gray poked his finger at Pavin’s chest, Pavin never took his eyes off his opponent. He never so much as blinked.

Still to be determined is whether Pavin can use the feel and instincts he relied so much upon as a player in his role as captain. He has five rookies, including two players who have never won on the PGA Tour. He has Woods, who hasn’t won this year while trying to return from the chaos in his personal life.

Typically in a Ryder Cup, players get the credit when they win, captains get the blame when they lose. Pavin expects that, and will treat it as he has in his nearly three decades on tour.

“If I play my best and someone beats me, that’s OK,” he said. “If I’ve done everything I can do, then I’m satisfied.”

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After Further Review: Nelson lost in the shuffle?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2018, 3:40 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the Nelson's future ...

If the goal was “different” by bringing the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest, consider it achieved. But bringing a world-class field south of Dallas could still be tricky.

Yes, the tournament can always rely on local resident and AT&T spokesman Jordan Spieth to throw his hat in the ring. But even with Spieth strolling the fairways this week, the field strength was among the worst all season for a full-point event.

The debut of the sprawling, links-like layout likely did little to sway the undecideds, with only the third round offering the challenging conditions that course co-designer Ben Crenshaw had envisioned. And the schedule won’t do them any favors next year, as a revamped itinerary likely puts the Nelson right before the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

The course will inevitably get better with age, and Spieth expects positive word of mouth to spread. But it might be a while before the stars truly align for an event that, for the moment, feels lost in the shuffle of a hectic schedule. – Will Gray

On Jordan Spieth's putting ...

Jordan Spieth’s putting is plainly bad right now, but it isn’t going to stay this bad forever.

He is the second ranked player on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, just like he was last year. This putting slump has lingered, but it’s unfathomable to think this guy just forgot how to putt.

Sooner rather than later he’s going to remember he’s Jordan Spieth and the 40-footers are going to start pouring in. He’ll be telling Greller to go get the ball because he’s too far away and the tee is in the other direction.

Bottom line, the ball striking is for real and the putting slump will pass. He’ll win soon – maybe even as soon as this week. – Nick Menta

On golf and gambling ...

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court over tuned a federal ban on sports betting in most states, a move the PGA Tour and many professional sports leagues embraced as a tool to both build fan interest and grow revenue.

Experts estimate sports betting could become a $150-$200 billion annual industry, and even a small piece of that could be significant for golf, but there will be risks.

Unlike any other sport, golf is played on multiple fields simultaneously, which inherently creates risks when gambling is introduced to the equation. Although the Tour has gone to great pains to head off any potential problems, like all bets gambling comes with great rewards, and great risks. – Rex Hoggard

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Wise continues whirlwind ascent with first win

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 3:13 am

DALLAS – Still shy of his 22nd birthday, Aaron Wise continues to prove himself to be a quick learner.

Wise went from unheralded prospect to NCAA individual champ seemingly in the blink of an eye while at the University of Oregon. After eschewing his final two years of eligibility in Eugene, he won in Canada on the Mackenzie Tour in his third start as a professional.

He continued a quick learning curve with a win last year on the Tour to propel him to the big leagues, and he didn’t flinch while going toe-to-toe with Jason Day two weeks ago, even though the result didn’t go his way.

Faced with another opportunity to take down a top-ranked Aussie, Wise made sure he got the job done Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson – even though it took until dark.

With mid-day rains turning a firm and fast layout into a birdie barrage, Wise seamlessly switched gears and put his first PGA Tour title on ice in impressive fashion with a bogey-free 65. Deadlocked with Marc Leishman to start the day, Wise made six birdies in his first 10 holes and coasted to a three-shot win as the leaders barely beat the setting sun to avoid an anticlimactic Monday finish at Trinity Forest Golf Club.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

As it turned out, the hardest part of the day was enduring the four-hour weather delay alongside his mother, Karla, as his afternoon tee time turned into a twilight affair.

“She was talking to me in the hotel about what a win could mean, what a second could mean, kind of taking me through all that,” Wise said. “I was like, I’ve got to calm down. I can’t just sit here. I said, ‘You’ve got to go.’ I kind of made her leave the room.”

Wise displayed some jitters right out of the gates, with a nervy three-putt par on the opening hole. But with several players going on birdie runs to turn what seemed like a two-man race into a much more wide-open affair, Wise went on a tear of his own with four birdies in a row on Nos. 7-10.

That gave him a window over Leishman and the rest of the chase pack, and he never looked back.

“I talked to myself and kind of made myself trust my putting,” Wise said. “These greens out here are really tricky, and for me to roll those putts in on 8 and 9 really kind of separated things.”

Leishman had held at least a share of the lead after each round, and the 34-year-old veteran was looking for his third win in the last 14 months. But a bogey on No. 10 coincided with a Wise birdie to boost the rookie’s advantage from two shots to four, and Leishman never got closer than three shots the rest of the way.

“He holed putts he needed to hole, and I didn’t,” Leishman said. “Hit a couple loose shots where I could have probably put a bit of pressure on him, and didn’t. And that’s probably the difference in the end.”

Instead of sitting next to a trophy in Dallas, Wise could have been closing out his senior season next week with an NCAA appearance at Karsten Creek. But the roots of his quick climb trace back to the Master of the Amateurs in Australia in December 2015, a tournament he won and one that gave him confidence that he could hold his own against the best in the world. He returned to Eugene and promptly told his coach, Casey Martin, that he planned to turn pro in the spring.

The same dogged confidence that drove that decision has been the guiding force behind a whirlwind ascent through every rung of the professional ladder.

“I just have a lot of belief in myself. I didn’t come from a lot. A lot of people don’t know that. I didn’t get to travel a bunch when I played junior golf,” Wise said. “Kind of all along it’s been very, very few moments to shine and I have had to take advantage of them.”

Despite that belief, even Wise admits that he’s “shocked” to turn only his second real chance to contend at this level into a maiden victory. But fueled by the memories of a close call two weeks ago, he put the lessons learned at Quail Hollow to quick use while taking the next step in an increasingly promising career arc.

“It was awesome, everything I dreamed of,” Wise said. “To walk up 18, knowing I kind of had it locked up, was pretty cool.”

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Grace celebrates birthday with final-round 62

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:51 am

DALLAS – Branden Grace celebrated his 30th birthday in style, making the biggest charge of the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Grace closed out a 9-under 62 as the sun began to set at Trinity Forest Golf Club, moving from outside the top 10 into a share of third place, four shots behind Aaron Wise. It equaled Grace’s career low on the PGA Tour, which he originally set last summer at The Open, and it was one shot off Marc Leishman’s course-record 61 from the opening round.

“Good birthday present. It was fun,” Grace said. “Little bit of imagination, little bit of luck here and there. You get more luck on the links golf course than maybe on a normal golf course.”

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

Weeks after Grace’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, he now has his best result on the PGA Tour since winning the RBC Heritage more than two years ago. As a world traveler and former Presidents Cup participant, the South African embraced an opportunity this week to go off the beaten path on an unconventional layout.

“It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course,” he said. “Obviously I think we got really lucky with the weather, and that’s why the scores are so low. It can bite you if it settles in a little bit in the next couple years.”

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Scott barely misses qualifying for U.S. Open

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:33 am

DALLAS – A birdie on the 72nd hole gave Adam Scott a glimmer of hope, but in the end even a closing 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson wasn’t enough to earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open.

Scott entered the week ranked No. 65 in the world, and the top 60 in next week’s rankings automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills. The cutoff was a big reason why the 2008 tournament champ returned for Trinity Forest’s debut, and midway through the final round it seemed like the Aussie had a shot at snagging a bid at the 11th hour.

Scott needed at least a solo ninth-place finish to pass an idle Chesson Hadley at No. 60, and while his 5-footer on the 18th green gave him a share of sixth place when he completed play, he ultimately ended up in a three-way tie for ninth at 15 under – barely short of a spot in the top 60.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

“I tried to make the most of really favorable conditions today, and I did a pretty good job of it. Just never really got a hot run going,” Scott said. “I feel like I struggled on the weekend reading the greens well enough to really get it going, but I think everyone but the leaders did that, too. They’re not the easiest greens to read.”

Scott has played each of the last three weeks in an effort to earn a U.S. Open exemption, and he’ll make it four in a row next week when he returns to the Fort Worth Invitational on a course where he won in 2013. Scott still has another chance to avoid sectional qualifying by earning a top-60 spot at the second and final cutoff on June 11 following the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Scott has played 67 majors in a row, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is second only to Sergio Garcia among active players. While he’s prepared to play each of the next three weeks in a last-ditch effort to make the field, he’s taking his schedule one event at a time with the hope that one more good result might take care of business.

“I’ll play next week and hopefully play really well, and give myself a bit of cushion so I can take a week or so off and try to prepare the best I can for the U.S. Open,” Scott said.