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GOLF SAN DIEGO OPEN : Buddy System on Tour: Pate, Pavin and Faxon Out for More Than Fun

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Brad Faxon planned to have dinner Saturday evening with buddy Corey Pavin, and tonight he’s going to drive to Los Angeles with pal Steve Pate.

Pate and Pavin went to school together at UCLA. Pate and Faxon are neighbors in Orlando, Fla.

Today they will get together as a threesome at Torrey Pines’ South course . . . in the final round of the Shearson Lehman Brothers Open.

“I hope Brad plays well,” Pate said, “and I play better.

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“And as well as Corey is playing, he can play well and still get beat.”

Pate has a one-stroke edge on Pavin and Faxon with a 17-under-par 199. Pate also has played well in the final round here: He shot a closing 68 in 1988 to win the tournament.

Faxon and Pavin are no strangers to success here, either. Pavin won the Junior World championship at Torrey Pines in 1977, and Faxon has placed second and fifth in this tournament.

“Here’s as good a place as any to win,” said Faxon, who has yet to win a tournament in his eight years on the tour. “I’ve grown to really like playing Torrey. I heard somebody say they are going to play someplace else in 1995, and that’s depressing.”

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Three years ago, Faxon led after three rounds only to lose on the final day to Pate.

“I’ve had my acceptance speech ready before,” Faxon said. “Steve and I were partners in that final round. He got hot early, and I had a bogey on 17 and that was the killer. . . . I’ve chalked that up to experience.”

Pate and Faxon had five-under 67s Saturday, and Pavin, the tour’s hottest golfer, matched Buddy Gardner’s 65 for low score of the day.

Jay Don Blake shot a 67 to stay within two shots of Pate. Robert Wrenn’s 68 and Emlyn Aubrey’ 69 left them at 202.

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The name of Dan Forsman, the defending champion, was coming off the leaderboard about the time he eagled No. 18. Forsman shot a 71 to tie Jim Hallet, who had a 66, and Ben Crenshaw, who had a 70, at 203.

Amateur Phil Mickelson was at 211 after adding a one-under 71 to rounds of 66 and 74.

Pavin won last week’s Bob Hope Chrysler Classic after tying for second the week before in the AT&T; Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He’s the tour’s leading money winner with $338,300, and he’s on the verge of another handsome payday.

“I’ve never played any better golf than I’m playing now,” Pavin said.

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“I was pleased to hang in there today. It was not my best effort of the year.”

Pavin sank a 60-foot putt on the par-three 175-yard third hole for his first of seven birdies. Among them was a chip-in from 60 feet on the 206-yard 11th hole.

But Pate made the shot of the day. After he dropped a 30-foot putt on the first hole for a birdie, he used his wedge from 83 yards on the 350-yard second hole. The ball hit in front of the pin, bounced behind it and then spun back into the cup for an eagle.

“It was kind of a weird round,” Pate said. “The score was fine, but I just didn’t hit a lot of good shots. I didn’t birdie a par five.”

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Faxon, for the second day in a row, hit every green. He birdied the first hole from eight feet, the third from 20, and after a three-putt from 100 feet on the fourth hole, made four more birdies.

“I just love to play with Ben Crenshaw,” he said. “I’m not afraid to say I’m still trying to learn from a guy like that.”

Crenshaw was two-under on the front but gained no more ground on his back nine. He will play with Hallet and Forsman today.

“I feel pretty good about my position,” said Hallet, who lost his chance for his first tournament victory in a playoff with Kenny Knox in last year’s Buick Southern Open.

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“I have an idea now what it feels like to be in contention. I finished in a tie for 10th last week and shot 64 on Sunday, so you never know what might happen.”

Blake, who added a 32 to a front-side 35, will play with Wrenn and Aubrey, just ahead of the leaders.

“I just have to go out and hit the shots I’ve been hitting and be patient,” Blake said. “I’ll try to keep my composure and enjoy myself as much as I can.”

Pate & friends have different plans.

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“It’s not hard playing with friends at all, because you’re not out there trying to think you can beat anybody in particular,” Pate said. “If you are, you’re stupid because somebody five shots back is going to shoot low, and you’re not going to be paying attention.”


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