Pavin ready for Champions Tour success

Corey Pavin during the Wales Open at Celtic Manor in June.

Corey Pavin during the Wales Open at Celtic Manor in June.

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Corey Pavin is making the most of his second chance at being a rookie.

The 50-year-old Pavin, who won 15 times on the PGA Tour over the course of 26 years, tied for 13th in his Champions Tour debut last month in Hawaii. He’s hoping to improve on that performance at the Allianz Championship on the Old Course at Broken Sound this weekend.

“It’s good to have the experience and also be a rookie,” said Pavin, who will also captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor in Wales in October.

“When I came out being a rookie on the PGA Tour, I didn’t know what to expect, playing all these different places and playing against all these people I was watching on TV all my life,” Pavin said Thursday. “It’s different when you come out here now as I have a lot of experience as a golfer, but I do have to learn the courses.”

Pavin plans to compete on the PGA and Champions tours this season, but believes the shorter courses the seniors play will better suit his game. He has never been a big hitter, finishing last in driving distance nine of the last 10 years on the PGA Tour.

“Obviously, I want to contend to win tournaments; that’s the one thing I want to do more than anything,” said Pavin, a three-time Ryder Cup member. “I want to be competitive, hopefully, on a weekly basis as opposed to once-in-a-while as I’ve been on the regular Tour.

“It’s no fun for me to go out there onto the regular tour and just hope to make the cut.”

Tom Lehman, the 1996 British Open champion, is playing his sophomore season on the Champions Tour and also will make his first Allianz Championship appearance.

Lehman has a lot of things in common with Pavin: he also played on three Ryder Cup teams, was the 2006 Ryder Cup captain and will be Pavin’s assistant captain this year.

Lehman also split time between the PGA and Champions tours in his first season, but he’s planning to play on the senior tour more often this year.

“Golf to me is more fun than it used to be,” said Lehman, who finished 20th in the Charles Schwab Cup standings last year. “It is more about enjoying it and less about always striving to be on the Ryder Cup or making the top 30 or worrying about your world ranking.”

Pavin and Lehman are hoping they can make a dent in Bernhard Langer’s stranglehold on the Champions Tour since the Florida-based German joined it full-time in 2008.

Langer, who lives in Boca Raton and considers the Allianz Championship home turf, has won seven senior titles, and captured back-to-back Player of the Year and leading-money-winner distinctions on the Champions Tour.

Paul Azinger, the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, also is playing the Allianz Championship in his first season on the Champions Tour, while Mike Goodes – a North Carolina businessman who never played the PGA Tour – is back to defend his title.

Loren Roberts, Fred Funk, Jay Haas, Jeff Sluman, Mark O’Meara, Andy Bean, Mark McNulty, Russ Cochran, Mike Reid and Nick Price also are in the field. All finished in the top 20 of the Champions Tour standings last season.