O.K., so the world ached for a Norman win here, ached for the heroic figure with the world's greatest hair, greatest clothes and greatest 70-hole golf game. He has now finished second in seven majors, losing four of them in playoffs. This season, however, Norman has finished in a tie for third at the Masters and second at the U.S. Open, so maybe first is coming next month in the British Open at St. Andrews.
To the purist, meanwhile, this Open was sweet and neat. On the 100th anniversary of the USGA, on one of the finest courses in America, a much-loved player who has made a career of never quitting shot even par, 72-69-71-68-280, to win his first major. "I'll tell you one thing," Pavin said, holding the trophy by one of its handles. "It's gonna be a long time before I let this thing out of my sight."
And he didn't. He kept it close through all the toasts and autographs and handshakes, and through the cellular phone call from President Clinton. Pavin even held on to the trophy when he and his wife, Shannon, their buddy Lee Janzen and his wife, Beverly, and some other friends sneaked up on the roof of the nation's oldest clubhouse. It was Janzen, the 1993 Open champion, who, after beating Pavin in a playoff at the Kemper Open the previous week, had sidled up to his friend and said, "You know what this means, don't you?"
"What?" said Pavin glumly.
"You win the Open. Whoever finishes second the week before always wins the Open." Which was almost true. It happened in 1994 with Ernie Els, and it nearly happened in 1993, when Janzen finished tied for third at Westchester.
So the two golfers went up on the roof the way winners will do and celebrated the day Pavin went from being the Best Player Never to Have Won a Major to being, at least for one week, simply the Best Player. And as the two broke open a bottle of champagne and toasted in the sunset high off the ground, Pavin must have finally felt very tall indeed.