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It's Right Stroke at Right Time for Pavin : Golf: A five-under-par 66 puts defending champion one shot behind Perry after tough season.

February 25, 1995|FRED ROBLEDO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Corey Pavin is going to stop trying to figure out the game of golf and simply play it.

Earlier this year, nothing seemed to be working as he finished 70th and 68th.

Then he had a hot round Friday in the Nissan L.A. Open at Riviera Country Club and started hearing that he has a chance to become the first golfer since Arnold Palmer to win the tournament two consecutive years.

Palmer won in 1966 and 1967, when it was held at Rancho Park.

"Now that would put me in some pretty impressive company," Pavin said.

He can also join Ben Hogan with a victory this week as the only golfers to win this tournament in consecutive years at Riviera. Hogan did it in 1947 and 1948.

But before he begins thinking of this place as Corey's Course, he wants to remember the things he was doing Friday that helped him shoot a five-under-par 66 in the afternoon wind that left him only a stroke behind Kenny Perry, who had to tie the course record of 62 to reach his standing at 10-under 132.

Catching Perry was the last thing on Pavin's mind as he stood on the driving range, waiting for his late-morning tee time. He glanced at the leader board and noticed Perry was finishing his remarkable round.

"I just wanted to stay in touch," Pavin said.

Although he hadn't scored well in recent weeks, Pavin figured he was close to turning the corner with his game.

"It's not that I was playing that badly, there were just a lot of little things going wrong," he said. "I've had a feeling that I was close to playing well."

But not as well as he was playing a year ago when he had finished fourth and second before the L.A. Open.

"But you never know about this game," he said. "You can get your game turned around in a hurry."

Pavin believes Riviera has something to do with his solid play. It's a shot-maker's course and Pavin, one of the shorter hitters on the tour, has always been a solid hitter with a keen sense of course management.

Nothing during his play on the front nine, however, indicated Pavin was about to make a run at the lead. He started on the 10th hole and made only one birdie on his first nine holes.

Things started coming together, however, on his back nine. He rolled in five-foot birdie putts on the first two holes, then made birdies at the fifth and sixth with iron shots that left him putts of six inches and four feet.

After a bogey at the seventh, he finished the round with a birdie at No. 9. His uphill drive into the wind landed in the right rough on the 418-yard hole, but his eight-iron shot landed 15 feet from the cup and he made the putt.

"That was a pretty good way to finish the round," Pavin said.

Pavin is comfortable with his position and has some incentive for playing well over the weekend. A former UCLA golfer, Pavin closely follows the Bruin basketball team and notes that they have a chance to become No. 1 with a victory over Duke on Sunday.

"I would like it to be a great day for UCLA on Sunday," he said.

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