Major day for Pavin the battler

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Golf

GUY HODGSON

reports from Shinnecock Hills

Corey Pavin, who was arguably the best current player without a major, removed himself from the running yesterday when he won the centennial US Open here. On a day of escalating scores, the American's final round of 68, three under par, was a jewel among many flawed stones.

The wind blew at Shinnecock yesterday, playing on swings and nerves while drying greens until they were hard and seriously fast. The result was a string of high numbers for the leaders and Pavin, nicknamed "the Bulldog" by his compatriots for his fighting qualities in the Ryder Cup, holding the prize.

His level-par 280 total left him two shots ahead of Greg Norman who, not for the first time, failed to deliver. Pavin crowned his day with a glorious four wood to four feet at the final hole. "I had prayed this would happen," he said, "and it's wonderful now that it has. I just feel fortunate that I've come out ahead."

Three behind the leaders at the start, Pavin, who has won 11 events on the US Tour, did not make his move until the final 10 holes, which he completed in three under regulation. A 12ft putt at the 12th ensured he was one of four players on one over, and when he birdied the 15th from 10 feet, he was in the lead for the first time.

Norman, who has blown more winning opportunities in major championships than any other golfer, succumbed again on the final nine holes. The Australian can find any number of ways to self-destruct, but yesterday his work on the tee proved to be the weak link. At the 12th, 13th and 17th he was wayward and consequently reaped bogeys.

He finished with a successful eight-foot putt to end on 282, one ahead of his fellow overnight leader, America's Tom Lehman, who had a four-over- par 74.

Ian Woosnam's challenge never really got going. He began the final round three strokes behind the leaders, but once he missed a chance for a birdie - a 12-foot putt on the first - the impression grew that he was not going to make a sustained run at claiming his second major, to complement his 1991 Masters.

Only a last-round 67 at the Hamburg Open last week had suggested the Welshman was coming out of a slump that had included missed cuts at his three previous tournaments, so some people, possibly even himself, must have been rubbing their eyes when his name appeared in joint fifth place after the third round.

A good start was necessary to reinforce confidence that was still fragile even after his 69 on the Saturday. "If I could get the ball on the fairway, I could score well," he had said. "I'm swinging too fast on the tee like an amateur. I need to slow down and find some rhythm."

After his missed chance at the first, however, he followed that up by three-putting the second and fourth and eventually finished with a five- over-par round of 75 and a total of 287. It was his putter that let him down, missing all but one birdie opportunities from within 15 feet from the sixth to the 11th.

If anyone needed reminding that you can want something too much it was Nick Faldo yesterday. He completed his US Open with a 72, but the final round brought him no pleasure. Just a souvenir of waste.

If you lose at Wembley or even a Rugby Union World Cup semi-final, you are at least spared a trip to your field of nightmares the next day. ers are not reprieved in that way and Faldo, whose 79 on Saturday had ended his hopes, had to go to Shinnecock yesterday to physically return to what was already replaying in his mind.

It was not a happy reunion. At the second he found a bunker and dropped a shot; at the third he went over the back of the green and accrued another bogey. From there he just stood still and his 11-over-par 291 was about 12 strokes more than he had bargained for. "I suffered on Saturday," he said. "My short game wasn't there and when I needed to scramble I couldn't. I'll have to go back and work on it."

Like Faldo, Colin Montgomerie arived on Long Island with legitimate reasons to believe this would be his week. His challenge fizzled out, too, but at least he left Shinnecock with a bang. After missing putts that could seriously have enhanced his well-being at the 15th, 16th and 17th, his parting shot was an eagle at the par-four 450-yard last. His approach from 218 yards was a majestic three iron that rolled into the hole for a two-under 68 and a final total of 288.

"The funny thing is," he said, "as I hit the ball I knew it was accurate and I was hoping it would fall short because I didn't want a downhill putt coming back. It must have rolled on and dribbled in. It was a nice way to finish."

Mark Roe, playing in his first US Open, had every reason to enjoy his start, middle and finish. Four over at the start of the day, he had a two-over 72 to finish in joint 13th place on 286, the highest-placed European.

US OPEN FINAL-ROUND SCORES

(US unless stated)

280

C Pavin 72 69 71 68

282

G Norman (Aus) 68 67 74 73

283

T Lehman 70 72 67 74

284

N Lancaster 70 72 77 65; J Maggert 69 72 77 66; B Glasson 69 70 76 69; J Haas 70 73 72 69; D Love 72 68 73 71; P Mickelson 68 70 72 74

285

F Nobilo (NZ) 72 72 70 71; V Singh (Fiji) 70 71 72 72; B Tway 69 69 72 75

286

M McCumber 70 71 77 68; D Waldorf 72 70 75 69; B Bryant 71 75 70 70; J Sluman 72 69 74 71; M Roe (GB) 71 69 74 72; L Janzen 70 72 72 72; N Price (Zim) 66 73 73 74; S Stricker 71 70 71 74

287

F Zoeller 69 74 76 68; P Stewart 74 71 73 69; B Ogle (Aus) 71 75 72 69; P Jordan 74 71 71 71; B Andrade 72 69 74 72; S Verplank 72 69 71 75; I Woosnam (GB) 72 71 69 75

288

C Montgomerie (GB) 71 74 75 68; M A Jimenez (Sp) 72 72 75 69; M Hulbert 74 72 72 70; M Ozaki (Japan) 69 68 80 71; S Simpson 67 75 74 72; D Duval 70 73 73 72; J M Olazabal (Sp) 73 70 72 73; G Hallberg 70 76 69 73

289

R Floyd 74 72 76 67; B Porter 73 70 79 67; H Sutton 71 74 76 68; C Strange 70 72 76 71; G Boros 73 71 74 71; S Elkington (Aus) 72 73 73 71; C Byrum 70 70 76 73; B Langer (Ger) 74 67 74 74

290

B Lane (GB) 74 72 71 73

291

J McGovern 73 69 81 68; C Pena 74 71 76 70; O Uresti 71 74 75 71; J Daly 71 75 74 71; N Faldo (GB) 72 68 79 72; B Hughes (Aus) 72 71 75 73

292

B Burns 73 72 75 72; E Romero (Arg) 73 71 75 73; T Tryba 71 75 73 73; P Jacobsen 72 72 74 74; M Gogel 73 70 73 76

293

B Faxon 71 73 77 72; T Watson 70 73 77 73; C Perry 70 74 75 74; S Lowery 69 72 75 77; S Hoch 74 72 70 77; G Bruckner 70 72 73 78

294

J Gallagher 75 71 77 71; J Cook 70 75 76 73; B Jobe 71 72 76 75; D Edwards 72 74 72 76; P Goydos 73 73 70 78

295

T Kite 70 72 82 71; M Brisky 71 72 77 75; T Armour 77 69 74 75

296

J Connelly 75 71 74 76

297

B Crenshaw 72 71 79 75; J Maginnes 75 71 74 77

301

J Gullion 70 74 81 76

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