Pavin May At Last Be on the Rebound
So when news reached that he finished 13th at Milwaukee Sunday, I was overjoyed. For all the little guys, for all the people who appreciate someone who gets by on guile and guts and a whole lot of heart, this was awesome news. Could it be that Pavin is making an anxiously awaited comeback?
Corey Pavin, who a decade ago was winning a U.S. Open and starring in Ryder Cups, has been largely forgotten of late as the big bashers of the tour left him in the dust. Pavin doesnt hit it a long way, see, and the men of the PGA Tour have taken quantum leaps in driving distance. Corey is 5-9, 155 pounds, and learned to play golf by hitting all the proper shots ' except the long ball. The men who learned to play by just hitting the long ball and one or two other shots have gotten a distinct advantage in the past six or eight years.
Paul Azinger paid Pavin a high compliment on a Peter and Friends segment that was re-aired on TGC Sunday night. Azinger said that Corey was hugely talented, able to curve a ball 40 yards if need be to reach a pin. But, Zinger said, Pavin is hurt now because he doesnt play the air game. Neither, incidentally, did Azinger during a seven-year run at the top of the PGA Tour, he admitted. Pavin mastered the ground game and big-time golf has now moved on past the time when the ground game won consistently.
I dont know exactly was Zinger meant, but I suppose it has to do with players winning who hit the ball high and far, as opposed to those who make it dance while boring low and on a line. In a day when courses are often set up at 7,400-7,500 yards and pins are cut three paces from the side or from the front edge, it is imperative to arc the ball high and make it stop quickly.
But Pavin, like Azinger, has tried very hard to retool his swing to be more of a high-ball hitter. And it looks like it is beginning to succeed. He probably will never again achieve the success he did from 1991 to 1996, when he never was lower than 18th on the money list. But he could reasonably be a top-50 player if just a few things went right for him.
I've made some changes in my swing, it's different than it was in '95, he said at the U.S. Open, noting that he has worked on making his swing wider.
I've searched with a few different teachers, and worked with Butch Harmon for eight, nine months, 10 months, and it's improved a lot. Now I have to get out there and execute on the golf course.
As late as last year, Pavin was still struggling. He finished 148th on the money list and missed 18 cuts in 26 tournaments.
This year, he made the cut in his first six tries, hit a rocky patch when he missed three in a row, but has made it again in five of his last six. And he has improved 57 places on the money list from last year, having already won $532,291 for 91st position. Only once in the last seven years has he finished higher.
Pavin always was a deadly short-game player. But he lost confidence in all aspects of the game while going though his slump. Last year he finished 131st in putting, for example. This year, he stands third on tour on putts per round, 50th on putting average. Sounds like a little of the ol magic is back.
The ball itself doesnt curve nearly as much as it did before, negating one huge Pavin advantage of the early 90s. And the clubs further resist the bending of the ball. So he had to virtually learn the game all over again.
But Pavin is a golfer ' period. Hes going to succeed, regardless, hes going to come up with something to stay alive. He has one more year remaining on the 10-year exemption of his 95 Open victory. He is smart enough to devise a new game plan, even one which succeeds in the bash-it and find-it game.
His 267.3 yards per drive is only 189th on the tour ' about the same ranking as he had most of his career. But hes getting a little air under the ball now, and that is a positive when you consider that the courses now demand plenty of air-time. Pavin has been forced to change.
Its a little like telling Rembrant he no longer can use paint, he now has to use Crayons. But Pavin is certainly making the switch. And I, for one, am happy to see it.
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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage
NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:
Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)
Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)
Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.
1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.
Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.
Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.
“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”
It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.
Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.
“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”
It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.
Tweets by GCTigerTracker
McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.
McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.
But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.
“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.
“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.
“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”
McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.
“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”
McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.