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Older players continue to be a force

The signs of age are unmistakable. The graying temples, the flat stomachs that have rounded, the 4-wood in the bag instead of the 2- or 3-iron.

One characteristic that has remained constant is the competitive fire, and while dominates the PGA Tour, the over-40 set is commanding the winner's circle.

"I think you can argue that it isn't a young man's game per se, but I think it is more of a trend of young hard hitters and most of those guys are younger," Corey Pavin said. "It's hard for me because I don't hit it as far, but there are certain golf courses that are good for me. I can compete on them and try and play those all the time. It doesn't mean I can't win on another golf course, it just means it is harder."

That trend might be leaning toward older. Two players over 40 have won in successive weeks, and three others are trying to be the third this week at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

Pavin, Mark Calcavecchia and Scott Verplank were all on the first page of the leaderboard after the first round.

Calcavecchia, 46, is tied for second with a 7-under par 65, Verplank is tied for fourth at 6-under and Pavin is at 5-under.

The trio is trying to follow Vijay Singh, 43, who won the Mercedes Championship, and Paul Goydos, 42, who triumphed last week's Sony Open.

"You know golf's a game where us old guys can still get it done every now and then," Calcavecchia said. "And if everything lines up right, we can do it again."

Calcavecchia, who first won in 1986, captured the 2005 Bell Canadian Open and said it was his experience that helped get his 12th career victory.

"I think some experience helped me, especially with my golf game on how to deal with a golf course like that," Calcavecchia said. "Some guys, it's 100 percent (swing from the heels) every shot and there's still a lot of finesse shots you need to play."

Pavin found that his short game came in handy last year when he won the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee. It was the 47-year-old's first victory in 10 years. Pavin shot a 26 on the front nine in his opening round, a PGA Tour record.

"I always felt like I was capable of winning, it was just a matter of whether it was going to happen or not," Pavin said. "The whole deal was to see if I could. Ten years of working on that was certainly worth it, because I did."

That was certainly the case for Goydos, who hadn't won in 11 years but birdied three of his last four holes to win last week.

Goydos, like many of the older professionals, choose courses that best suit their games. Though he likes Torrey Pines and historic Riviera Country Club, the courses are too long for his game.

"My primary reason for playing the course is that it fits well for me," Pavin said. "I think there are 10 golf courses I play every year that I look forward to and think I have my best chance of winning."

That doesn't mean Pavin will shy away from a longer course, but his expectations change.

"When I get on courses that are longer, harder, I have to play exceptionally well to win," Pavin said. "I can, I just have to be right on my game. I remember playing great at the Memorial one year and it was probably one of the best tournaments I ever played and I finished third. But that golf course is a tough course for me. When I play well I still compete, but the guys ahead of me played a little bit better."

When Pavin won last year, though, it was the validation he had been seeking.

"It certainly gives you more confidence when you do win," he said. "I wasn't sure if I could handle it again mentally. It had been a long time. It was way easier than I thought it would be, which I didn't expect."

January 18, 2007

 




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