SI Vault
Jaime Diaz
March 05, 2001
Corey Pavin's MakeoverBulldog Mentality
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March 05, 2001


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69.41 (4)

71.95 (144)

Fairways Hit

72.1% (39)

70.6% (53)

Putts per GIR

1.751 (30)

1.786 (122)


60.3% (86)

57.1% (140)


184 (2)

581 (45)

Best Finish



Missed Cuts



Corey Pavin's Makeover
Bulldog Mentality

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 November.

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 a two-iron.

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 difference."

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