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Published: 7/30/2011

Pavin is ready for first victory

Ryder Cup captain comes close, but still lacks a Champions title

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Corey Pavin, playing in his second year playing as a Senior, shot a 2-under 69 at Inverness Club Friday, putting him at 5-under halfway through the Champions Tour major, four shots off the lead. Corey Pavin, playing in his second year playing as a Senior, shot a 2-under 69 at Inverness Club Friday, putting him at 5-under halfway through the Champions Tour major, four shots off the lead.
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On the Champions Tour golf, the careers arc works in reverse from the PGA game.

Injuries aside, as soon as you qualify to play at age 50, you arrive in your best physical condition relative to the rest of the field.

Most senior players’ best chance to win is usually right out of the gate because, as Father Time starts chipping away, the advantage of experience is trumped by the erosion of physical skills.

Considering this inevitability, Ryder Cup captain and second-year Champions Tour player Corey Pavin, 51, admits he’s a bit surprised he is still seeking his first victory as a senior competitor.

“The expectations are a little bit different,” said Pavin, comparing being a PGA rookie to Champions Tour newcomer. “When I came out on [the PGA] Tour I remember the first year I just wanted to finish in the top 125. That was my goal, and I won the first year. That was kind of unexpected.

“Coming out here, not that I expect to win, but I was certainly hoping to have won by now. It’s a little frustrating in that regard.”

Pavin followed his first-round 68 from Thursday with a 2-under 69 Friday in the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club. That work puts him at 5-under halfway through the Champions Tour major, four shots off the lead.

This comes on the heels of his third-place tie with Tom Watson at last week’s Senior British Open, another major for the senior set. Pavin finished with a 72-hole total of 279 last week across the pond, three strokes behind champion Russ Cochran.

“I’ve played well,” Pavin said of his Champions Tour work. “I’ve played well enough to win a couple tournaments and someone’s just beaten me. So, in that respect, I don’t feel so badly.”

Pavin’s best finishes in the over-50 competition were a pair of seconds in 2010, one of those in the Senior British Open.

Although he insists that the extra duties — Ryder Cup captain and Champions regular — didn’t hinder his play last year, Pavin has more time to focus on his own golf this year. The next Ryder Cup event will be held next summer in Medina, Illinois.

“I felt like I really took care of my golf game when I was at the golf course and took care of the Ryder Cup stuff when I wasn’t at the golf course,” Pavin said. “The biggest difference, obviously, was last year I took almost two months off in the middle of the year or end of the year to prepare for the Ryder Cup and not play.

“Other than that, it doesn’t feel that much different to me just because I’ve compartmentalized everything from last year.”

The numbers reflect that Pavin should be close to a breakthrough.

He entered this week ranked 12th in Champions Tour earnings at $768,227 through 14 events and, statistically, he is rated seventh in all-around play. His scoring average of 69.13 is No. 4, and his driving accuracy of 81.59 percent ranks second.

Accuracy will likely be the key at Inverness for the 5-foot-9, 155-pound Pavin over the final two rounds as he seeks his first senior win.

“If you hit it in the wrong place, it doesn’t matter how soft the greens are out here,” he said. “There are some pretty precarious places to be to have to chip from.”

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com or 419-724-6461.



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