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In the Club
Rick Reilly
June 26, 1995
A late surge by Corey Pavin won him the U.S. Open and admission to the fraternity of major-tournament winners
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June 26, 1995

In The Club

A late surge by Corey Pavin won him the U.S. Open and admission to the fraternity of major-tournament winners

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He took a rip and knew he'd flushed it. Of course, proving he'd flushed it was another matter. Because he is short and the hole was so high, Pavin had to run to see the ball land. So he sprinted after the shot as though he wanted it back. "The ball was blocking out the flagstick," he says, "and I thought, Oh, man, that thing might go in!" It didn't, but it rolled to within five feet of the hole. Talk about your Heaven Wood.

Pavin was so overcome by the moment that it nearly felled him. He raised his fists, then stopped in his tracks and squatted in the middle of the fairway to catch his breath, say a prayer and compose himself. "I let my emotions get loose," he said. "I had to get them back inside me."

If Pavin's wasn't the Greatest 72nd-Hole Shot in U.S. Open History, it's in contention. If they ever build a case for such things, Pavin's four-wood should go in there with Ben Hogan's one-iron (from Merion), Jack Fleck's seven-iron (from Olympic) and Jerry Pate's five-iron (from Atlanta). For sure, Pavin's is the Greatest Uphill Metal Wood Ever Hit by a Guy Who Had to Run to See the Hole.

Out on the 16th, Norman could do nothing but listen. There was no way to play with that racket going on. He needed a birdie on 16, for he knew 17 and 18 weren't likely to give one up. But, as he has done so many times in his life, he hit a wonderful little 88-yard shot that turned out to be a little too wonderful. It landed right on line with the flag, bounced forward within four feet of the stick and sucked back off the green and down into the rough. Norman would make a harmless little par. Lehman, though, would make a double bogey, and Tway was on his way to three straight bogeys. Now it was just Norman and Pavin.

Up ahead, Pavin—who tied for fewest putts on the week and, as Schwarz said later, "hadn't missed a key five-footer all week"—missed a key five-footer. Norman still had a chance. But there is the Norman Rule, which almost always holds true. It states that winners are variable, but the person they use as a human footstool to glory is always the same: Norman. On the par-3 17th he bailed out his six-iron into the right bunker for a bogey, which left him needing to slam-dunk a seven-iron on the 18th to tie.

Pavin was sitting in NBC's 18th tower trying not to watch. "I heard [on-course reporter] Roger Maltbie say, 'That's left of the flag,' and I knew," Pavin says. "I was the U.S. Open champion."

What Pavin had done was win a Groan-fest. Of the last 14 players to tee off Sunday, Pavin was the only one to ride home under par. He had shot his 68, sat back and won the Open.

Being the B.P.N.T.H.W.A.M. "bothered me a lot more than it has ever bothered anybody else on the planet," Pavin said afterward, "so I'm more relieved than anybody."

"I never cry over spilled milk," said Norman, who made one birdie during the weekend and wound up second for the 51st time in his career. The man could build a mansion out of his silver medals. "People are going to say, 'He's letting things slip away,' " Norman said, "but it's just as hard to get in there with a chance to win as it is to win." Norman can say what he wants, but you can tell these losses are killing him. Still, he perseveres. He let go of his crying wife, Laura, walked up to Pavin and mustered his usual post-major posture: chin forward, hand extended. "Welcome to the club," Norman said with a smile.

"Thanks," said Pavin. "I'm glad to be part of it, lemme tell ya."

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