Pavin ends day with three stroke lead

Donna Tommelleo and Donna Tommelleo

Corey Pavin started strong and finished with a flourish for one of the best rounds of his career and a three-stroke lead at the inaugural Buick Championship yesterday.

Pavin matched his career low with an 8-under-par 62 at TPC at River Highlands. It was also a season low for 44-year-old Pavin and the best round in his 12 appearances at the tournament formerly called the Greater Hartford Open.

Pavin has contended in this event several times, especially in the mid-1990s when he finished with a second and third.

“I’ve had good success in the past and for some reason, I play OK,” Pavin said. “Anytime you get to a golf course you feel comfortable on, you just feel good that you might shoot a good score or things are going to come together. And today was a day that everything seemed to come together.”

Bob Burns and Matt Weibring are second at 5-under 65. Bunched together four strokes behind the leader with 66s were Fred Funk, David Peoples, Jerry Kelly, Jason Dufner and Craig Bowden.

Pavin’s round was one stroke off the tournament record of 61 held by three players — two-time champ Phil Mickelson, Scott Verplank and Kirk Triplett. It also matched the event’s best first-round score, set in 2001 by Jonathan Kaye. Pavin’s only other 62 came in the 1990 Texas Open, where he finished third.

He took advantage of ideal scoring conditions in his morning round after heavy fog lifted and softened the greens at TPC at River Highlands. Pavin holed a 120-yard wedge shot on the 341-yard second hole for an eagle. His seven-birdie round included a 45-foot chip-in at No. 18 that brought a roar from the gallery.

His only stumble was a bogey at No. 12, when he missed a 10-footer for par.

The 24-year-old Weibring is playing on a sponsor’s exemption and is competing in just his third PGA Tour event. His father, D.A. Weibring, won this event in 1996 with his then 16-year-old son in the gallery.

Matt Weibring is making his first return to Hartford since that win, but remembers vividly his father’s shotmaking in the final round and his one-stroke win over Tom Kite.

“I’ve got real good memories of my dad hitting those shots, so kind of in my head, I had an idea what to do and what kind of shots to play,” the younger Weibring said. “If I can stay and not get caught up in what is actually happening, I think I’ll be able to be all right.”

Burns has made just nine cuts in 21 events this season and has one top-10 finish. His only win on tour came at the Disney Classic in 2002.

Pavin, the 1995 U.S. Open champ, has just one top-10 finish this season and is looking for his first win since 1996. He’s been working with swing coach Butch Harmon the past year and likes the direction his game is heading.

“Certainly it’s important where I end up on Sunday, but right now the journey is really important for me and what I go through and how I get to that point where I’m playing to the best of my ability,” Pavin said. “If I happen to win great … But as long as I’m going in the right direction, that’s all I’m after right now.”