ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Corey Pavin has long built his reputation as golf's little big man, the scrawny guy with the huge heart, a player whose toughness more than equaled his talents.
After what happened this summer at Shinnecock Hills on the fi
nal hole of the U.S. Open, and after what happened yesterday here at Oak Hill at a crucial moment of the 31st Ryder Cup, Pavin is building something else.
His 18-foot, downhill chip-in for birdie from the rough behind the 18th hole ended a tense, 5 3/4 -hour struggle with Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer in the day's final match, giving Pavin and Loren Roberts a dramatic 1-up victory.
Pavin's shot not only added to his reputation as one of the world's foremost short-game players, but also added to the U.S. lead over a European team that had stormed back by winning three of four morning matches. It put the U.S. team ahead, 9-7, going into today's 12 singles matches. The Americans need only five points to win the Cup for the third straight time.
"We had a tough morning, and I knew going in that our match was going to be very important," Pavin said a few minutes later as he stood on the green with his wife, Shannon, as fans in the bleachers chanted his name. "I knew that it was going to be tied if Nick made his putt, one or two points depending on what I did. It was a great way to end the day."
It was a day that began with the European team erasing its 5-3 deficit with three successive, and convincing, foursomes victories. Just as it seemed that the U.S. team might get swept, Roberts and Peter Jacobsen came from behind to beat Ian Woosnam and Phillip Walton, 1-up.
That victory was also secured on the final hole, when Roberts hit what he would call "probably the biggest shot" of his career: a blind, uphill wedge from 56 yards to within four feet of the cup. Jacobsen, whose gaffe of picking up his ball too quickly on Friday afternoon had contributed to the lone U.S. defeat, calmly made the putt to save par after Woosnam nearly holed out for par from the bunker.
"It made a big difference," U.S. captain Lanny Wadkins said after an American team forged its first lead going into the final day of the Ryder Cup since 1981. "We had a bad morning and we still got a tie."
It certainly played out that way. With the roars reverberating throughout Oak Hill, the U.S. team steam-rollered to easy victories by Fred Couples and Brad Faxon, who beat Sam Torrance and Colin Montgomerie, 4 and 2. Also, Jay Haas and Phil Mickelson defeated Seve Ballesteros and David Gilford, 3 and 2.
Only Costantino Rocca, the goat of the European defeat at The Belfry in 1993, kept it from being an afternoon sweep. The former factory worker from Bergamo, Italy made a hole-in-one in the morning -- the third in Ryder Cup history -- then teamed with Woosnam to beat his Ryder Cup nemesis, Davis Love III, and Ben Crenshaw, 3 and 2.
Pavin's biggest shot might not have been the chip-in to win but the 4-iron he hit from a bad lie in a fairway bunker on the 18th hole to set up the chip.
Asked which was more exciting, Pavin said, "I'm not really sure, to tell you the truth. It's so exciting and so fresh, it's hard to say. The chip was probably in a lot of ways more exhilarating because all the teammates were watching and our wives were watching and the United States was watching."
The Europeans also were watching. Pavin's chip-in clearly unnerved Faldo. After making a number of clutch putts all afternoon -- including a 7-footer at 13 to draw the teams even while a spectator yelled, "Miss it" -- Faldo missed a 17-footer that would have tied the match. Pavin was engulfed by his teammates, some of whom charged up the hill from the 18th fairway to congratulate him.
So did Langer, in a silent tribute.
"He shook my hand," said Pavin. "He didn't say anything, but he had a twinkle in his eye. He's a good friend of mine and it was like he was saying, 'Good shot.' "
/# One on which to build a legacy.
United States 9, Europe 7
Corey Pavin and Loren Roberts, United States, def. Nick Faldo, England, and Bernhard Langer, Germany, 1-up. Phil Mickelson and Jay Haas, United States, def. David Gilford, England, and Seve Ballesteros, Spain, 3 and 2. Ian Woosnam, Wales, and Costantino Rocca, Italy, def. Ben Crenshaw and Davis Love III, United States, 3 and 2. Brad Faxon and Fred Couples, United States, def. Colin Montgomerie and Sam Torrance, Scotland, 4 and 2.
Nick Faldo, England, and Colin Montgomerie, Scotland, def. Curtis Strange and Jay Haas, United States, 4 and 2. Sam Torrance, Scotland, and Costantino Rocca, Italy, def. Jeff Maggert and Davis Love III, United States, 6 and 5. Loren Roberts and Peter Jacobsen, United States, def. Ian Woosnam, Wales, and Philip Walton, Ireland, 1-up. Bernhard Langer, Germany, and David Gilford, England, def. Corey Pavin and Tom Lehman, United States, 4 and 3.
European players listed first
* Seve Ballesteros vs. Tom Lehman
* Howard Clark vs. Peter Jacobsen
* Mark James vs. Jeff Maggert
* Ian Woosnam vs. Fred Couples
* Costantino Rocca vs. Davis Love III
* David Gilford vs. Brad Faxon
* Colin Montgomerie vs. Ben Crenshaw
* Nick Faldo vs. Curtis Strange
* Sam Torrance vs. Loren Roberts
* Bernhard Langer vs. Corey Pavin
* Philip Walton vs. Jay Haas
8, * Per-Ulrik Johansson vs. Phil Mickelson