Pavin and 17-Year-Old Headline in Milwaukee

By Sports NetworkJuly 18, 2007, 4:00 pm
US Bank Championship in MilwaukeeMILWAUKEE -- Corey Pavin has only glanced at the field at this week's U.S. Bank Championship.
He wouldn't see a whole lot of names he knows, anyway.
Pavin, the defending champion and 1995 U.S. Open winner, is one of the few marquee players at the PGA TOUR's stateside stop opposite the British Open that begins Thursday. In the 40 years of the tournament, no defending champion has ever repeated, but Pavin stands a better chance than most at the event where Tiger Woods made his pro debut in 1996.
'I haven't even looked at the field that much,' said Pavin, who won for the first time in a decade with his victory at the Brown Deer Golf Course last year. 'I just feel like I'm another player this week. It's obviously nice that I won last year, but it all starts from scratch this year.'
It will be a whole new experience for 17-year-old Tony Finau, one of the more interesting standouts among the eclectic field of journeymen and perennial qualifying school participants.
Finau, who declined a scholarship offer from BYU, turned pro in May and made the field by shooting a 64, a course-record, at a Monday qualifier near Milwaukee. It was Finau's first attempt at qualifying for a spot in a PGA TOUR tournament.
'I've always worked hard playing golf, I've never done anything else,' Finau said. 'I just knew I had it in me to play professional golf.'
But the 6-foot-4 Finau turned heads in more places than the links. Growing up in suburban Salt Lake City and working on conditioning in his high school gym, his varsity basketball coach recruited him to play on the team.
Suddenly Finau, who hit buckets of 350 balls three or four times daily in his garage with his 16-year-old brother, Gipper, during the long winter offseason in Utah, was the starting center at West High School the past two years.
This past season, he averaged 10.8 points and 12 rebounds a game, the latter one of the best marks in Utah. He even drew interest from some local colleges about shooting jumpers, not par.
'I was a very good addition to our team, but I knew there were so many kids out there that wanted to play basketball,' Finau said. 'I just wanted to play golf.'
Finau, who patterns his game after Ernie Els, started at age 8 because Gipper was doing so well at it.
'I'm not going to lie, at his age and my age he has more talent than I do,' Tony Finau said. 'It's been a pretty tough road for us, but it's been fun. We thought it would be more interesting for both of us if we turned pro and showed the world we could play at a young age.'
Finau, who claims he hits it 330 yards off the tee, said making the field was the hardest part and he expects to make the cut in his first event.
Driving may not mean a whole lot here. It's the shortest course on tour this year at 6,759 yards and someone 40 years or older has won the event seven of the last 11 years.
'Older guys don't hit it as far, it's as simple as that,' Pavin said.
One of those older guys looking for a big week is Kenny Perry, who struggled until recently after surgery on his right knee to correct a ligament tear last year.
Perry, 46, entertained thoughts of retiring because he couldn't get his game straight. But in his past four tournaments, he's finished no worse than 15th and been in contention on Sunday in each before falling off the pace.
'My last four tournaments have been great,' Perry said. 'I shot a 63 on the Sunday of the Memorial and all of a sudden it's like a light bulb went off in my head.'
The only thing Perry, the 2003 champion, isn't happy about is that the U.S. Bank Championship is stuck behind the British Open.
'I hate it's having to compete with the British,' Perry said. 'I think that's wrong. I think it deserves its own date.'
Last year, the U.S. Bank Championship was the week after the British Open. ... Three players who have won on tour this season are in Milwaukee this weekend. They are Brian Bateman (Buick Open), Paul Goydos (Sony Open) and Mark Wilson (Honda Classic). ... Bateman and Wilson both were in qualifying school last season. ... While this tournament boasts 12 of the top 100 in the Official World Golf rankings, the highest player here is No. 43 Tim Clark. ... Along with Pavin, Steve Elkington, Lee Janzen, Bernhard Langer, Jeff Sluman, Bob Tway, Larry Mize and Mark Brooks are the other players who have won majors in the field.
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    Watch: Strong start, rough finish for Koepka

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