Nearly a half century since Ben Hogan's memorable run at Riviera Country Club, another small shotmaker loomed large as the PGA Championship opened on the venerable layout.
If Corey Pavin ever was destined to win a major tournament, he couldn't have picked a better place than Riviera, where Hollywood stars once cavorted and O.J. Simpson played his last round of golf.On a course that favors a shotmaker, Pavin has already won twice in the last two years and now threatens to follow in Hogan's footsteps as one of only a handful of golfers to have won both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in a single year.
"Just because I've won a major doesn't mean I'm not hungry," the 5-foot-9 Pavin said before today's first round. "I'm just as hungry as before I won the U.S. Open."
Pavin tops the strongest field of the year for the final major of the year at Riviera, whose narrow fairways, small greens and towering trees force golfers to be creative with their games.
The greens have been rebuilt, and the kikuyu rough is deeper than during Hogan's run 47 years ago, but the same shotmaking skills that favored Hogan now tilt the advantage to Pavin.
"It's definitely going to be a tournament where you're going to have to keep it in play to even have a chance," newly crowned British Open champion John Daly said.
That points to a golfer like Pavin, who is as straight off the tee as he is short, and who played Riviera frequently while growing up in the Los Angeles area.
"Anytime you come back to a golf course where you've had success, you have good feelings, and you remember good shots you've hit under pressure," Pavin said. "Those are always very good things to have going tournament week."
Pavin, who shed his label of the best player never to win a major with his U.S. Open win, could duplicate Hogan's feat of 1948, when he won his second L.A. Open in two years and then followed it by winning the U.S. Open at Riviera.
But to join Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win both the U.S. Open and the PGA in the same year, he'll have to overcome a deep and talented field that boasts all but two of the top 50 golfers in the Sony rankings.
Among them are defending champion Nick Price, who has shown recent signs of coming out of a season-long slump, and Daly, who strolled down Riviera's fairways with a shaved head on Wednesday after shaving his blonde locks in Europe.
It was at the 1991 PGA Championship that Daly came out of nowhere to win, sparking a wild binge of drinking and eratic behavior that he has spent much of the last two years trying to overcome.
"I would like to win majors the way I won the British Open - sober," Daly said. `That's my main goal in life is to stay sober, whether I win any more tournaments or not."
Whoever wins at Riviera will have to deal with the wet, thick rough and soft greens that have shown a tendency to spike up easily.
The greens were rebuilt in 1993 by Ben Crenshaw, but have not firmed up or matured as planned.
The last time Americans won all four PGA majors was back in 1982. With a win at this year's PGA Championship, they can sweep once more.
MASTERS U.S. OPEN BRITISH OPEN PGA CHAMP
1995 Ben Crenshaw Corey Pavin John Daly ?
USA USA USA
1994 Jose Maria Olazabal Ernie Els Nick Price Nick Price
Spain S. Africa Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
1982 Craig Stadler Tom Watson Tom Watson Ray Floyd
USA USA USA USA