Lehman, Pavin in contention at U.S. Senior Open

Corey Pavin watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the 2012 U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Golf and Country Club.

Corey Pavin watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the 2012 U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Golf and Country Club.

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LAKE ORION, Mich. - Senior golf is often a time warp, but Friday’s second round of the U.S. Senior Open was particularly significant for any student of major-championship history.

In 1995, Tom Lehman and Corey Pavin battled each other - as well as Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson - in the final round of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton. N.Y.

Pavin took that one, closing with a 68 for a 280 total. Lehman and Norman were tied for the lead heading into the last round, but both were passed by Pavin. Norman finished second at 282, while Lehman was third at 283.

For Lehman, it would be the first of three consecutive U.S. Opens in which he would play in the final pairing on the final day and fail to win.

It seems like yesterday. Playing the 72nd hole with a one-stroke lead over Norman, Pavin was standing at the bottom of a small hill, 4-wood in hand. The wind was howling. He was 228 yards from the flagstick.

Pavin proceeded to hit one of golf’s all-time greatest pressure shots, his ball stopping 4 feet from the cup. He made the birdie putt.

Here at Indianwood Golf & Country Club, Pavin and Lehman are threatening to re-create major championship history. Granted the U.S. Senior Open doesn’t carry the weight of the U.S. Open, but clearly it is the most prestigious of the senior majors.

Pavin and Lehman stand at 4 under after 36 holes.

Lehman, voicing serious misgivings about his golf swing, still has hit 30 of 36 greens in regulation. He has hit 19 of 28 fairways. He has totaled nine birdies and five bogeys. He has yet to post a round with less than 30 putts, finishing with 33 putts in the first round and 30 in the second.

Pavin has hit 27 greens and 21 fairways. He has amassed 10 birdies, four bogeys and one double bogey (the result of a two-stroke penalty in the first round, when his ball moved after he had addressed it and he failed to put it back in its original position). He totaled 26 putts in the first round and followed with 31.

One big difference between the short-hitting Pavin and the longer-hitting Lehman: In the second round, Pavin used his driver 11 times, compared with just five times for Lehman.

Regarding his two-shot penalty in the opening round, Pavin did not realize his ball had moved from its original position. If he had known, and if he had replaced the ball, the penalty would have been one stroke instead of two.

“Did you put yesterday behind you?” he was asked Friday.

“I didn’t want to put yesterday behind me,” he said. “I played well yesterday. That’s the way I was looking at it. So I just wanted to go out and play good again today, and actually I played better from tee to green than I did yesterday.”

Pavin said he is very pleased with his ballstriking and his arsenal of creative shots. “More than anything, I like the way I’m playing,” Pavin said. “It’s a U.S. Open, and it calls for a lot of different kinds of shots, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Not Lehman.

“I haven’t been real comfortable with my swing either of the first two days,” he said. “I’m just trying to hit solid shots. Not hero shots. I’m just trying to put the ball on the green where I can have a decent putt.”

Pavin is 52, Lehman 53. Another time-warp veteran, 62-year-old Tom Kite, also is experiencing a golf resurgence.

A victory by Pavin or Kite would add another name to the prestigious fraternity of players who have won the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open. In order of their Senior Open victories, the roll call: Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Gary Player, Orville Moody, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin.

It’s a time warp, all right.

With apologies to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the cult movie’s Time Warp lyrics sound something like a commentary on the golf swing:

Let’s do the Time Warp again

Let’s do the Time Warp again

It’s just a jump to the left

And then a step to the right

With your hands on your hips

You bring your knees in tight

But it’s the pelvic thrust

That really drives you insane

Let’s do the Time Warp again

Let’s do the Time Warp again

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