Corey Pavin's Makeover
This is an article from the March 5, 2001 issue
Corey Pavin never figured to be the type of player who would
need a major overhaul. His swing always looked funny, but that
seemed beside the point. The Bulldog was all about
intangibles--creativity, guts and a flair for delivering the
coup de grace, such as his four-wood on the 72nd hole to clinch
the '95 U.S. Open.
However, there was Pavin at the Nissan Open, completely rebuilt
at 41. The trademark mustache was gone. The curly hair has turned
gray. He's still 5'9" and 155 pounds, but his frame is broader
and tapered by weightlifting. He has returned--after a six-year
absence--to his original coach, Bruce Hamilton. Also, Pavin is
single: After 17 years of marriage, he filed for divorce last
Another noticeable change was his spot on the leader board. Going
into the final round, Pavin, who hadn't finished better than a
tie for fifth since his win at the 1996 Colonial, was tied for
second. Wielding the Bulls Eye putter he'd used to win the Nissan
in 1994 and '95, Pavin took only 22 putts during a third-round
67, the best score of the day. (His playing partner, Tiger Woods,
shot a 69.) A final-round 74 left Pavin in 20th place.
Of all the reasons given for Pavin's precipitous fall--lack of
motivation after winning his only major, a desire to spend more
time with his two young sons, marital discord--his biggest problem
inside the ropes was simple: Pavin, as short a hitter as any top
player in history, got shorter while his peers got longer.
Last year, when the average driving distance on Tour was 273
yards, Pavin averaged 251 to rank dead last. Pavin had always
sacrificed distance for control, but by late '96 he was hitting a
low-flying fade off the tee that big hitters could blow past with
He had also lost his touchstone, Hamilton, with whom Pavin had
worked since he was 16. Over 20 years the two men had become
close friends, as had their wives. But in 1995 the Hamiltons went
through a divorce that caused tension between the couples and led
to the professional split. After Pavin's own marriage foundered,
Pavin called Bruce Hamilton from Hawaii on the last day of the
Sony Open in January. "Corey asked if I'd like to work with him
again," says Hamilton, the head pro at Spanish Hills in
Camarillo, which is 50 miles north of Los Angeles. "I said I'd
love to. It was an emotional call."
Hamilton's mission is simple. "Corey has to hit the ball longer.
Period," he says. To create more clubhead speed and a higher ball
flight, Hamilton has Pavin working his right shoulder underneath
his chin through impact. On the range at Riviera the
results--increased carry--were obvious. "It might take a while, but
I know I'm working on the right stuff," says Pavin. "Tiger's
power isn't completely a product of his size and strength. It's
his technique too."
The belief that he's back on track reawakened the Pavin of old at
Riviera. "Corey is foremost a competitor, and nothing upsets him
more than not being competitive," says his older brother, Matt, a
Titleist salesman in Valencia, Calif. "He has always lived for
the thrill of the chase. It's a matter of confidence, and if
Bruce gives him that extra smidgen, it could make a huge
Duval's Achilles' Heel
He Doesn't Have A (Lob) Shot
Tiger Woods's so-called slump has received plenty of attention,
but no skid has been blamed on more factors than David Duval's,
even though the chief culprit is all too obvious. Ranked No. 1 in
the world in 1999, when he completed a run of 11 victories in 34
tournaments, Duval has won only one of his last 36 starts and
fallen to sixth in the world.
Duval, who withdrew from the Nissan, refuses to admit anything's
wrong, and that has given rise to an abundance of theories. Some
have speculated that Duval hated the glare of being No. 1 so
much that he unconsciously abdicated the position. Others say
Duval's body-altering exercise regimen has caused him to lose
his groove. A popular theory holds that his psyche has been
crippled by Sunday failures to win his first major. Even Duval's
friendship with Woods (never fraternize with the enemy), his
recent engagement to longtime girlfriend Julie McArthur and his
legal skirmish with the Acushnet Company, with which he had an
endorsement contract, have been cited.
Here's the real reason for his slump: Duval's weak with the
wedge. I'm not talking about standard pitches from 75 to 110
yards--Duval is excellent at those. I mean the talent shots around
the green, in particular the most indispensable accessory to
today's power game: the lob shot.
Duval doesn't have a lob shot, not of the caliber of three of the
players ahead of him in the World Ranking--Woods, Phil Mickelson
and Ernie Els. Last year Els and Woods ranked first and third,
respectively, in the Tour's scrambling stat. Mickelson, the
master of the flop shot, was sixth. Duval has never ranked better
than 42nd in scrambling. Last year he was 86th. This year he's
Unlike Mickelson and Woods, Duval did not grow up using the lob
shot and has made no serious effort to work it into his
repertoire. That has cost him in the majors. In the '99 U.S. Open
at Pinehurst, Duval lost the lead because of poor short-game
play, particularly when he skulled a bunker shot and flubbed a
chip on the 9th hole on Sunday. His quadruple-bogey 8 on the 71st
hole at St. Andrews last summer didn't cost him the title, but
his inability to loft his ball over the lip of the Road Hole
Bunker--it took him four shots to get out--underscored this
deficiency. Until Duval learns the lob, he will remain in a
competitive hole as deep as the Road Hole Bunker.
It was definitely no accident that a thundering herd of 16 Tour
players pulled out of last week's Nissan Open at Riviera Country
Club, most of them at the 11th hour. Today's coddled
professionals watch the Weather Channel as closely as they do
CNBC, and when it became clear that Los Angeles was in for a
soaking, the deluge dodgers bid adieu to the Wet Coast and beat
the traffic to Miami and balmy Doral.
What do these players have in common?
They share the record for the low 18-hole score on the PGA Tour
this season, 11 under par. Calcavecchia shot a 60 at Phoenix,
while Durant and Gamez had 61s at the Hope.
Which do you prefer, Tour events that are birdie-fests, like the
Hope, or tournaments in which par is a good score, like the U.S.
--Based on 5,488 responses to our informal survey
Next question: What is the primary cause of David Duval's slump?
Equipment change, impending marriage, new physique, legal battle
with Acushnet, short game.
Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
Synonyms for: Wet Conditions
Au jus, blotter, French toast, plug ugly, shoe sucker, sop,
sponge cake, sump, splatter ball, tapioca, Water World.
Duval's numbers are down across the board this season. Here's a
comparison of key stats from 2000 and '01, with Duval's rank in
Scoring 69.41 (4) 71.95 (144)
Fairways Hit 72.1% (39) 70.6% (53)
Putts per GIR 1.751 (30) 1.786 (122)
Scrambling 60.3% (86) 57.1% (140)
All-Around 184 (2) 581 (45)
Best Finish 1st 7th
Missed Cuts 0 2
John Benda, Phoenix
Benda, 53, a professional, recently won three events in four days
on three mini-tours. He took one-day tournaments on the Arizona
Senior Series, the Arizona pro tour and the Southwest tour.
Benda, who was the director of the Asian tour from 1992 to '99,
has finished first in 25 events on the three tours in eight
Michelle Simpson, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Simpson, 21, fired a course-record 69 at par-72 Timberton Golf
Club during the first round of a wire-to-wire win at the Southern
Mississippi Lady Eagle Invitational in Hattiesburg. A junior at
Florida International, Simpson beat North Texas sophomore Randi
Gauthier by a stroke for her third victory of the season.
Camilo Benedetti, Medellin, Colombia
Benedetti, a junior at Florida, shot a tournament-record 14-under
196 in winning the SunTrust Gator Invitational at the University
of Florida Golf Course. Benedetti, who led the Gators in scoring
last season with a 73.06 average, defeated teammate Camilo
Villegas, a freshman, and North Florida senior David Bennett by
Submit Faces candidates to golfplus.cnnsi.com/faces.
The TV cameras were rolling when Frank Lickliter erupted during
the final round of last month's Buick Invitational. The world saw
Lickliter, after hooking a three-wood shot on the 14th hole,
raise his club skyward, then violently slam it into the turf.
Does Lickliter have one of the worst tempers on Tour? Nope, not
even close. Here are the Tour's real hotheads, in alphabetical
FULTON ALLEM His most embarrassing steam releaser is to loudly
lecture pro-am partners and tournament volunteers on where to
stand when he's playing. The caddies' take: "Bring a flak
WOODY AUSTIN At the 1997 MCI Classic, Austin slammed his putter
against his skull five times so forcefully that the shaft bent
and you could hear the blows on TV.
MARK CALCAVECCHIA His latest meltdown came last month at Pebble
Beach, where he destroyed the same putter he had used the week
before to set the Tour's 72-hole scoring record. Later, when a
contrite Calc asked his caddie, Greg Martin, if he had saved the
clubhead, Martin reported that he had indeed retrieved it from
the garbage can. "Hey, I'm a veteran," Martin says.
JOHN COOK Personable off the course, Cook is an unrelenting
self-abuser on it. Known by the caddies as Keith Richards because
of his need for Emotional Rescue, Cook will never live down the
time he took an angry swipe at his ball while it sat unmarked on
a green during the Memorial and sent it into a water hazard.
DUDLEY HART Also know as the Mini-Volcano (in deference to Steve
Pate, below), Hart, with his quick tongue and high-pitched voice,
is the master of the imaginatively conjugated profanity.
JERRY KELLY A few years back after teeing off on Riviera's 1st
hole during the Nissan Open, he veered off the fairway to chew
out a reporter in the nearby pressroom and then resumed his
FRANKLIN LANGHAM A benign-looking pro with a name right out of
Gone with the Wind, Langham is known as a caddie killer. Says one
former looper, "Even my parents never yelled at me like that."
STEVE PATE The original Volcano, Pate specializes in assaulting
tee markers. His piece de resistance was a hatchet job he did on
a pineapple tee marker--a real pineapple--at the Hawaiian Open.
CRAIG STADLER The Walrus is a master of the meltdown. His best
move is the Sword in the Stone--he slings his iron headfirst into
the ground with alarming force, then stalks away.