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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF / JERRY CROWE

Pavin Beginning to See Light After Plunge Into Abyss

May 28, 1999|JERRY CROWE

A four-over-par third round derailed his chances of winning the Colonial last weekend, but Corey Pavin may be on the verge of climbing out of the black hole that swallowed him after he won at Colonial three years ago.

The former UCLA player led after two rounds last week. He wound up tied for 11th at five under, giving him three below-par, top-20 finishes and nearly $180,000 in winnings in his last three tournaments, including a tie for fifth last month in the MCI Classic at Hilton Head, S.C. He has moved to 60th on the money list at $320,709.

That's more like it for the 1995 U.S. Open champion, whose earnings during his slump-ridden 1997 and '98 seasons, when he missed the cut in 22 of 45 events, totaled less than $270,000.

"I'm playing with a little bit more confidence, just kind of believing in myself a little bit more," Pavin said from Potomac, Md., where he is one shot off the lead in the Kemper Open after shooting a four-under 67 in the first round Thursday. "Physically, things have been in place for a little while. I'm hitting the ball well, I'm chipping and putting it pretty well. The mechanics have been very good.

"I just went out at Hilton Head and was determined to play confidently--and did so. It kind of got me over that hump a little bit, and now I just have to get in that winner's circle."

His stumble Saturday kept him from getting there last week.

"I have to relearn a little bit about how to handle the pressure and how to win," he said. "I just have to get back in the hunt and learn to cope with it again. The learning curve should be pretty quick because I've obviously had some experience there. It was just a matter [last week] of not being there [in contention] for a while, and it just got the better of me."

Pavin, though, was encouraged by his final-round 68.

"Very much so," he said. "It's kind of one step back and two steps forward. That's better than one step forward and two steps back, which is what it's been the last couple years. It's nice to see things going in a positive direction when I look back on the week as a whole."

Pavin, 39, is so determined to put his slump behind him that the Oxnard High grad talks about it in the past tense.

"What was most difficult was the frustration level," he said of dropping from 18th on the money list in 1996, when he had nine top-10 finishes in 22 events, then out of the top 150 the last two years. "I was working very hard on my game, putting a lot of time into it, hitting a lot of balls, working a lot on my short game and putting, but I wasn't scoring. That was the most frustrating thing, not seeing results from a lot of hard work. . . .

"It was very difficult to deal with, but I never gave up. I was determined to get my game back--and I'm still determined to get my game back to where I want it. I still have a ways to go, but it's certainly nice to see it's a lot closer."

CLUB WARS, CONTINUED

Ely Callaway has criticized club manufacturers Adams and Orlimar for allowing two players to carry their bags, but none of their clubs. So he was understandably miffed when Paul Stankowski pulled a Ping two-iron from his Callaway bag during the second round of the Colonial.

Within hours, Callaway had fired off a fax to Stankowski, notifying him that he was in breach of contract. Stankowski had no Callaway irons in his bag, even though players under contract to the company are required to carry at least 10 Callaway clubs. By Monday, the Associated Press reported, they had patched things up.

"I was frustrated with the way I was playing and decided very hastily to give my old clubs a try," said Stankowski, who opened with an 80 and was at par through nine holes Friday. "It's been a difficult year, and I've got some things to work on. But I am committed to Callaway and look forward to our continued relationship."

HOW ABOUT A GARAGE SALE?

Akiko Fukushima of Japan didn't know what to make of some of the loot she received Sunday for winning the Philips Invitational Honoring Harvey Penick, including a white cowboy hat and a bronze bust of the tournament namesake, a famed golf instructor who taught LPGA Hall of Famers such as Kathy Whitworth, Betsy Rawls and Mickey Wright.

"I don't know what to do with it," the bewildered rookie said through an interpreter.

JACK'S BACK

Jack Nicklaus, who needed crutches to walk as recently as two months ago after hip replacement surgery in January, was happy with his two consecutive below-par rounds and 18th-place finish in the Senior PGA Bell Atlantic Classic.

"I was better than I expected," he said. "I would say that what happened to me physically and what I did, it was almost an A. I think my golf was about a C. It wasn't exceptionally good, but I don't think it was terrible."

Nicklaus, 59, used the tournament as a tuneup for his own Memorial tournament next week and, looking further ahead, the U.S. Senior Open and the Senior Players Championship.

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