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THE LOS ANGELES OPEN : Hogan's Alley Has Yet to Be Pavin's Haven

February 20, 1986|DAN HAFNER | Times Staff Writer

As he begins play in the 60th Los Angeles Open today at Riviera Country Club, Corey Pavin is of the hot players on the PGA Tour. His victory in the Hawaiian Open last week was his third in three seasons, and he has already won more than $100,000.

This will be his fifth L.A. Open. Until last year, when he shot a third-round 64 and finished third, he had never played well on the tough Riviera course.

Winning here would be something special, Pavin said Wednesday after the cancellation of the celebrity pro-am due to heavy morning rains.

The weather began to clear later in the day, however, and barring more rain, the first round will go on as scheduled.

Pavin was born in Oxnard, is a graduate of UCLA and lives in West Los Angeles.

"It's nice to win any tournament, but it would be something special to win at home," he said. "I really like this course, although until last year I never broke par at Riviera. That 64 was possibly the best round I've ever played.

"This is a demanding course. It takes a good golfer to win here. With all the rains, the course is soft. Barring any wild weather conditions, I think the scores will be low, even though it is playing longer.

"On the second hole (a 460-yard par-4) in a practice round yesterday, I used a driver and a 4-wood to reach the green. Under normal conditions, I would have used a 2-iron for my second shot. Players who carry the ball a long way will have the advantage.

"But if they are able to smooth out the greens, the scores will generally be lower."

Pavin, 5-feet 9-inches tall and only 140 pounds, is deceptively strong, but he does not rank among the top hitters for distance. The soggy conditions, should favor players such as Davis Love, the current leader in distance with an average of 278.3 yards, Dan Pohl, Joey Sindelar and Jodie Mudd.

Pavin, however, ranks among the leaders in driving accuracy and at 26 has already had a spectacular career. In 1983, he was 18th on the money list with $260,536, the most ever for a rookie on the tour, and he won at Houston. Last year he jumped to sixth place, earning $367,506, and won the Colonial Invitational at Fort Worth.

After a so-so start this season, Pavin rallied from three strokes behind leader Tom Watson in the last round at Hawaii Sunday, winning again and vaulting into sixth place this year.

"I played well at San Diego but I was having some problems with my putting," Pavin said. "When I went to Hawaii, I didn't have any feeling that I was struggling. And, when the putting came around, I knew I had a chance to win."

Significantly, on a day of relaxation after the pro-am was called off, Pavin wasn't concerned about working on his driving or his iron game. He practiced his putting for about an hour on the course known as Hogan's Alley in honor of excellent rounds shot there by golfing great Ben Hogan. After sinking three in a row from about 25-feet, Pavin decided he was ready.

"If I'm putting well, I know I'll do all right here," he said. "I don't feel any pressure because friends and family will be here. I just feel at home."

Pavin is the only former Bruin with a chance to win here, but there is a large contingent of former USC players who also would consider it something special to win the L.A. Open. Although the Trojans are usually well represented in the event, not since Dave Stockton did it in 1974 has a USC golfer won here.

Craig Stadler, a perennial contender who tied for fourth last year, and Scott Simpson, who tied for fifth, are back for another shot.

Another contender among those who attended USC is Tony Sills. Sills, in his third year on the tour, is seeking his first victory but is off to his best start. He was in contention until the last few holes at Phoenix and played well at Pebble Beach and San Diego. He is ninth on the money list this year.

A decision on calling off the pro-am was not made until almost 10 Wednesday morning. When it was, Marty Moore, the course superintendent, breathed a sigh of relief. Early morning rain had dropped more than an inch on the already soggy course, and Moore is concerned about having the greens ready for play today.

"There is no problem with the fairways--they drain quickly," he said of the course. "It was built on an old river bottom. But the greens are of a different composition. They don't dry out as quickly.

"If it clears up, the greens will be playable. It rained at an average of one-quarter of an inch an hour this morning. All we can do is use a squeegee to get rid of the water. But if there is no more rain, we will be able to cut them in the morning and they will be ready to open the tournament."

Among the greens that could be the most troublesome, Moore said, are Nos. 2, 5, 6, 7, 10 and 16.

Today's first round was scheduled to start at 7 a.m. Defending champion Lanny Wadkins, a strong contender to repeat, is among the early starters. He was scheduled to start on the 10th tee at 7:32.

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