Corey Pavin does not appear remarkable. There is nothing stunning about his putting, which is average, or his driving, which is steady but hardly spectacular. But if consistency can be remarked on, then he could be the most remarkable young player on the PGA Tour.
Pavin made his 39th cut in 45 tournaments yesterday with a round of 70 that put him two under par in the Kemper Open at Congressional Country Club. He is tied for fifth place at 142 with five others, five strokes behind leader George Archer.
At 25, Pavin is having a dazzling second season on the Tour. Still, until his victory at the Colonial Invitational in Fort Worth two weeks ago, he had gone largely unnoticed by a good portion of the golfing public.
That is perhaps due to his largely unnoticeable demeanor. The son of a shoe store owner from Los Angeles, Pavin is soft-spoken and tiny at 5 feet 9, 140 pounds. "I've worked hard to be consistent," he said. "I try not to do silly things. I pride myself on not making double bogeys."
Pavin's victory at Colonial, however, was more stunning than steady. Leading by five strokes going into the final round, he shot 64 for a 266, breaking the tournament record by two strokes. His reaction to it is typical.
"One thing I'll remember most," he said, "is that I only bogeyed twice in the tournament."
With his mania for consistency and control, Pavin is being compared to Hale Irwin, who has won two U.S. Opens and 17 Tour victories by being unremarkable. Like Irwin, he has a tendency to put himself into contention with solid play.
Like Irwin, he also plays the hard courses well. As a result, he is developing the kind of promising leader board consistency that generally means a player is going to win tournaments. He already has more Top 10 finishes (12) than some players have in a career.
"I don't like courses where you have to shoot 20 under to win," he said. "I don't feel a player should win because he has a hot putter. If I can play a solid round and get a couple of birdies each day on a hard course, I think that shows more character."
Pavin set the money record for a rookie last year with $260,536, and already this year has won more than any second-year player save Hal Sutton, with $228,348, putting him eighth on the money list.
He is third in scoring leaders, with an average of 70.51 a round, and is sixth on the Tour in hitting greens in regulation at 70.9 percent. Despite his Irwin-like caution, he is tied for second in eagles with nine.
Pavin's goal this year was to finish in the Top 10 in 10 tournaments and he is well on his way. In 15 tournaments, he has had seven, including his victory at Colonial.
Despite his youth, Pavin has a sense of tradition unusual in the younger Tour players. He began playing the game at age 6 and never has wanted to do anything else.
He grew up playing at Los Posas, a course near his home in Los Angeles, and still uses club pro Bruce Hamilton, with whom he has been working since he was 15, as his coach.
Pavin began showing potential at UCLA, where he won the Pacific-10 title in 1982. He tried to earn a playing card in 1981, but did not get one until 1983, when he tied for seventh in the qualifying tournament.
"That's something I don't ever want to go through again," he said. "I grew up trying to be a pro and it all came down to one week."
In between college and earning his Tour card, Pavin paid the dues that may account for his marvelous two years on the Tour. He went to South Africa and Europe, winning the South African PGA and German Open. He got a jump on his peers in handling the travel and competition.
"I've learned things like how to hit a three-wood off the tee instead of a driver for position," he said. "It never occurs to us younger guys. You have to hit a few drivers in the rough before you learn."