Love Is Still One Making Biggest Splash at Riviera


This time, the rain played no favorites, hanging around Saturday’s third round of the Nissan Open from damp start to drenched finish, leaving every golfer in the field cold and wet, if not unanimous in how they felt about it.

“Pretty brutal,” was how Corey Pavin described the weather.

“It wasn’t very nice,” was Davis Love III’s soggy assessment.

Soft Americans.

“It’s a beautiful day!” enthused Robert Allenby, who is Australian and therefore accustomed to swamp conditions.

“What’s wrong with today? I played for seven years in Europe like this and it’s great.”

Allenby then laughed like a man in position for a six-figure payday, which is where he finds himself after shooting a two-under-par 69 at Riviera Country Club, leaving him tied for second for the tournament, three strokes behind Love.


Sure, Allenby said as a drying umbrella rested at his feet, it was “cold and wet and miserable.” That’s golf in February in California. If you intend to survive, you learn fast to deal with it, invest in a good slicker and pick your spots when the rain eases from downpour to drizzle.

“You’ve got to try to make some putts when you have the opportunity to make them,” Allenby said. “Because that doesn’t happen very often. It’s very rare when you’re shooting for a lot of birdies [in the rain]. When the opportunity arises, you’ve got to take it.”

Or, even when the opportunity degenerates from moist to worse.

On the par-five 17th hole, with his third shot resting on the fringe of the green, 40 feet from the pin, Love stood over the ball and the heavens opened. “It was the hardest rain of the day,” Love accurately noted, and calmly, firmly, he knocked his putt through it, all the way into the hole for an elements-defying birdie that clinched the 54-hole lead.

Love saved par on 18 for a three-under round of 68, giving him a three-day total of 203, 10 under par.

Allenby is tied for second at 206 with Pavin, Dennis Paulson and Craig Barlow. One stroke back at 207 are Nick Price, Jeff Sluman and Michael Muehr.

Tiger Woods, who shot a two-under 69, is five strokes off the lead at 208. He is tied with nine others, including second-round co-leader Miguel Angel Jimenez, who could manage only a 73 Saturday.


Amid the mud and the puddles, players conceded it could be worse. Take, say, today--with the forecast calling for one to two inches of rain.

“They say the bad weather’s still to come,” Allenby said. “The big downpour’s supposed to come overnight. So [today] is not looking good, as far as playing, because the course is already wet. I just played 18 holes and it didn’t stop once.”

Love groped for a silver lining.

“They’ve been doom-and-gloom about [today] all week,” Love said, “which means that it will probably be nice. When they say it’s going to be awful, sometimes it turns out OK.”

Just in case, a note to Nissan Open fans planning a pilgrimage today: The family umbrella--don’t leave home without it.

Love’s persistence and consistency got him to the top of the leader board, but Pavin’s day-best round of 67 was the buzz of the afternoon. Pavin won this tournament twice, in 1994 and 1995, but has not won a PGA Tour event in five years, a stretch dating to the 1996 Colonial.

And he arrived at Riviera on Saturday seemingly under-equipped for the conditions, lacking the long-ball power necessary to drive the ball through rain and swirling winds.


“That’s a big golf course for him today,” Love said, referring to Pavin. “The course played extremely long today. In our group, we kept hitting more and more club, and still not getting there. . . .

“For Corey, that’s a heck of round in these conditions.”

Pavin’s big equalizer: His putter. Pavin required only 22 putts to complete his round--a statistic Woods, playing in the same group, described as “absolutely ridiculous.”

“If I had [22] putts, I could’ve gone a little bit lower too,” Woods said with a laugh. “He put on a wonderful display of putting. It was just fun to watch.”

Pavin said he “really didn’t hit it as well as I would have liked today, but my putter certainly made up for a lot of things. . . . It was a hard day to score, but, luckily, my putter was working really well today.”

Three strokes back with 18 holes to play. Rarefied air for Pavin, who was asked in the interview tent what was the worst thing about not winning for a while.

“Not winning for a while,” he deadpanned.

“Just the frustration. It’s really not the amount of winning that is frustrating--it’s just not playing well. I can live with not winning a tournament if I’ve played well. It’s more knowing that my game’s not where it can be. That’s the frustrating part.”


Despite the wait, Pavin said he wasn’t surprised to be teeing off in the last group today, weather permitting. “I know I can contend,” he said. “I wouldn’t be playing right now if I didn’t think I could get my game in a position where I could win. I’m not going to bang my head on the wall trying to make cuts. I’m not happy doing that.

“Where I want to be is having a chance to win golf tournaments. I don’t see a problem with me getting back there. It’s just a matter of working at it and going about it the right way. Hopefully, I’m getting on the right track.”



Par 71--54-Hole Scores

Davis Love III: 68-67-68--203 -10

Robert Allenby: 73-64-69--206 -7

Craig Barlow: 68-68-70--206 -7

Corey Pavin: 71-68-67--206 -7

Dennis Paulson: 70-68-68--206 -7




Someone has to win this thing, and he will appreciate it. Thomas Bonk’s column. D12


Cardinal Woods and Bruin Pavin exchange in some good-natured banter. D12