ACE GROUP CLASSIC: Even on the upswing, Corey Pavin keeps even keel

David Albers/Staff
- Champions Tour pro Corey Pavin warms up at the driving range at Twin Eagles in preparation for the ACE Group Classic on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012, in Naples.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff - Champions Tour pro Corey Pavin warms up at the driving range at Twin Eagles in preparation for the ACE Group Classic on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012, in Naples.

2012 ACE Group Classic: Corey Pavin

His approach on Champions Tour.

— Corey Pavin hit a miraculous shot on Sunday when he won the Allianz Championship. He has no issue believing that.

It was an upside-down, left-handed 8-iron on the par-3 No. 14. Hitting out of a bottomed out spot near a cartpath. Pavin had to get the ball over the cartpath, up a hill, then up on a green sloping away from him. He did all of that and got it to four feet for par.

“Yeah, people are talking about that, I guess,” Pavin said. “That was fortunate that it ended up OK. It was one of those shots that I just tried to advance it and get it out of there, and I really wasn’t thinking about getting it close to the hole or anything. I was just trying to make sure I got it out and had a chance to make a bogey.

“It came out better than I could ever expect it to, and it was kind of almost laughable how good it turned out.”

Playing partner Mark Calcavecchia, who was in the midst of a back-nine collapse, put his putter under his arm and clapped.

Pavin, 52, smiled and high-fived his caddie, but knew he had to focus.

“I was a little more concerned after that with trying to make the putt,” he said. “I didn’t want to hit that shot, and then miss the putt.”

There was plenty of work after that. Pavin hit the pin on his third shot on No. 17 — perhaps the golf gods squaring things up from his miracle shot.

“You take the good with the bad,” he said. “You can define it as good and bad, but to me it’s just what happened and I don’t really think about it in a good or bad sense. Other people look at it and say ‘Well, that was a good break; that was a bad break.’ To me, it was just what happened and I just try to not judge what happened, and just go on and keep playing.”

Peter Senior forced a playoff with a 14-foot birdie on No. 18, but Pavin’s 10-footer on the first playoff hole — also No. 18 — gave him the win.

It ended a lengthy drought of 122 starts between victories. Pavin had played 34 tournaments on the Champions Tour with two second-place finishes before his win.

“Before last week, I had a better chance to win on the regular tour since I turned 50,” Pavin pointed out, referring to a playoff loss in the Travelers Championship in June 2010.

There were some good omens Sunday. Pavin had a friend from Hilton Head Island who was in Milwaukee when he last won in 2006 at the Allianz, and his wife, Lisa, was there, too.

Winning was a goal, but not the goal Pavin is measuring himself by every week.

“It feels good when I play well, even if I didn’t win — as long as I’ve done what I think I can do to win a tournament,” the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup captain said. “It’s kind of tough for me when I’m in a position to win and I don’t execute or I don’t play well. That’s always the hardest thing for me.

“It’s not a matter of winning. It’s a matter of going through the process and playing well enough to win, and sometimes you don’t (win), and sometimes you do. So that was the main thing for me.”

John Cook took just two events to win his first on the Champions Tour, but he knows that’s not necessarily the norm for players coming off the regular tour.

“It’s not that easy to win out here no matter who you are or where you came from or what you did on the regular tour,” Cook said. “It’s not a surprise that guys don’t win early, but once they get a little bit of confidence and be there enough — obviously he knows how to win, it’s just getting your chances.

“It’s good to have guys win that have won many times on the regular tour and won majors. That’s all good for us.”

Pavin, the 1995 U.S. Open champion, did plenty of not playing well or winning — he hadn’t won in 10 years on the PGA Tour when he won in 2006. “I just kind of lost my game a bit,” he said. “I just tried to work real hard, tried to get back. That’s why the win in ’06 was so special for me because it was such a long, hard time.”

The short-hitting, 5-foot-9 Pavin actually had brought his game back as a 50-year-old — on the regular tour. He made the cut in five of only eight events, but won enough to finish 116th on the money list and earn his tour card for 2011. However, he played just four regular tour events last year.

“It wasn’t appealing to me to play a full schedule on the regular tour,” he said. “Part of the answer is I think the courses are kind of long for me anyway, but I think I can be competitive if I went out there and I could do OK. But I like it out here. I think for me, I want to have chances to win tournaments, hopefully week in and week out, and I feel here I can do that on any of the courses we play.

“I don’t want to beat my head against a wall on the regular tour, basically. I did that for a long time. I want to enjoy myself a little bit more.”

Pavin certainly did Sunday.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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