Pavin Wins U.S. Bank Championship
July 31, 2006
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Corey Pavin found the winning formula again: precise putting, a lucky bounce and his old caddie to show him the way.
The 46-year-old Pavin won his first PGA Tour title in 10 years Sunday, closing with a 3-under 67 for a two-stroke victory over Madison native Jerry Kelly in the U.S. Bank Championship.
Pavin, whose last win came in the 1996 Colonial, earned his 15th tour victory by averaging just 26.5 putts per round and getting a timely eagle on the par-4 eighth. He finished with a 20-under 260 total.
Kelly also closed with a 67. Jeff Sluman (64) was 17 under, Frank Lickliter (69) and D.J. Trahan (69) followed at 15 under and Woody Austin (65), Joey Sindelar (67) and Billy Andrade (68) were 14 under.
Pavin, who also won the tournament 20 years ago, became the eighth two-time champion in Milwaukee and received $720,000. He reunited with longtime caddie Eric Schwarz earlier this month in Connecticut at the Buick Championship, and his once accurate putting stroke returned.
'In Hartford, his alignment was real bad,' Schwarz said. 'It took about two, three hours to get him straightened out.'
Did it ever.
While Kelly said he wanted to go head-to-head with the leader in the final round, Pavin seemed like an unlikely candidate, ranking 194th in driving distance and 175th in putting on tour.
But the 1995 U.S. Open winner scorched the short 6,759-yard Brown Deer Park Golf Course early with a PGA Tour-record 26 on the par-34 front nine Thursday with just 10 putts. He finished the first round with a 61 and shot a 64 in the second to reach 15 under and tie the tour scoring record for the first 36 holes at 125.
'Corey had success because he kept it in play,' Sluman said. 'I think after three rounds, he had 17 less putts than me. If you putt like that, you can't hit it bad enough not to have a great tournament.'
Kelly had the backing of the partisan crowd expecting the Wisconsinite who lost in a playoff here in 1996 to finally win the tournament he calls a 'major.'
The gallery and even those outside the course loudly urged Kelly on as he tried to pump them up by waving his arms for more noise during his final round, especially down the stretch. Walking up one fairway, a man riding a bicycle in the subdivision across the street began shouting for Kelly hysterically.
But Pavin relished the chance to be the outsider and spoil everyone's fun.
Kelly, who started play Sunday two shots behind Pavin, spoiled his own chances.
He did not make a bogey, but missed 13 birdie putts, the closest from 7 feet, and did not make a putt longer than 5 feet.
After an eagle attempt on No. 15, Kelly birdied to move to 18 under, two strokes behind Pavin. But he again missed birdie putts on Nos. 16, 17 and 18.
'My speed was just a little off on my putting, and I didn't adjust very well throughout the day,' Kelly said. 'I started out with a whole bunch of downhillers that I had to protect and when I got to the uphillers, I felt like I was going to hammer it by and I never did.'
Meanwhile, Pavin's biggest shot wasn't a putt at all.
It came on the par-4 eighth hole, when he opened a four-stroke lead over Kelly. Pavin hit a drive 270 yards to the center of the fairway, and his second shot, a 6-iron from 172 yards, bounced three times and rolled into the cup for an eagle.
'That was huge, I was playing real solidly and hitting a lot of greens, but I couldn't seem to get a putt to go in,' Pavin said. 'Then I hole a shot and that gave me a nice cushion.'
The first person to congratulate him? Kelly.
'I respect him and I really like him a lot, he's a good friend,' Kelly said. 'And I'm really mad at him when he did that. It's a great shot. You want to beat a guy at his best.'
It was all Kelly could do because of his lousy putting, and Pavin said he struggled to contain his emotions just before his last putt.
'I've never given up on myself,' Pavin said. 'I felt good that I could prove it to myself that I could win again.'