Sahalee Causes Pavin to Lose His Grip
By Stephanie Wei under US Senior Open

There’s a reason why Corey Pavin’s nickname is “Bulldog” — he’s a fierce competitor who grinds it out. How he gets around the course isn’t always so pretty, but he manages to get it done with the given circumstances of the day, which is basically the story of his first round at the US Senior Open. Pavin scrapped his way through Sahalee, a layout which is supposed to suit his game, to post a two-over 72.

I started following him on the 16th, his seventh hole on Thursday, and watched through the 4th. It looked more like he was en route to shoot 80, especially given some of his on-course antics, which were somewhat endearing, but partly because I was so surprised (even though it makes perfect sense).

The US Ryder Cup captain sure didn’t seem like he was holding back his frustration. After hitting his approach so poorly on the 18th, he was probably relieved that massive pine trees lining Sahalee’s narrow fairways were there to stop his ball from going farther right. He also didn’t bother to hold his follow-through, letting the three-wood drop to the ground.

On the following hole, Pavin hit an iron from the middle of the fairway and made rotten contact. While his ball ended up on the front of the green, he was at least 10 yards short of his target (and the pin).  This time he opted to take his disgust out on his bag, slamming his club against it.

Then at the sixth hole — which I watched on the telecast — his shot from the greenside bunker went far left of the flag. This time the victim was the sand, which he kicked with extra gusto (it reminded me of Lou Piniella trying to punt home base while yelling at an ump).

On any given day, Sahalee can trigger such reactions from the calmest of players, and in major championship conditions, it can be one of the more exasperating experiences. But Pavin looked composed as he headed straight to the range after signing his scorecard. He pounded balls for at least 40 minutes.

Looking at his stats, I’m shocked — he actually hit 10 fairways and 13 greens, which ranks him at T12 and T5 in the field, respectively. Which means he must have had a lot of putts. Yep, 33. He kept leaving himself three-five feet downhill sliders, which are anything but gimmes on Sahalee’s slippery greens. (I was stressed out from watching.) Though he looked tentative standing over them at times, I didn’t see him miss any. Nor did I witness a putter throw.

But I also only watched a third of his round.

[Photo by John Mummert/USGA]