Bernhard Langer and Corey Pavin spent the better part of two decades competing against each other on the PGA and European tours, particularly in the Ryder Cup. It only figured that the two-time Masters champion and former U.S. Open champion, respectively, would continue their rivalry on the PGA Tour Champions.
That's never happened, as Langer became the most dominant player over age 50 in nearly two decades while Pavin, 2 years his junior, all but disappeared. Langer has won 32 Tour Champions tournaments, including the first two majors this year. Pavin has won just one tournament in seven years, and that was five years ago.
But the rivalry might be revived this weekend in the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. Langer was at 13-under-par 131 through 16 holes Friday when second-round play was suspended after a second thunderstorm, with Pavin, who had completed his round, two shots behind.
"Winning out here is a lot harder than I thought it would be because guys are so able to handle the pressure and they are very competitive, I think," Pavin, 57, said Friday.
Langer is surprised Pavin's success on the PGA Tour hasn't continued at the senior level.
"When I tell people how difficult is to win out here, I sometimes mention him, that he's only won once out here in several years," Langer said after Thursday's round. "This tour should really suit him because he's got a phenomenal short game. He's not the longest hitter, but he's actually gained some length through workouts or whatever he's doing."
Pavin now will find out for himself how he handles the pressure. When he tees it up Saturday after the second round is completed, he likely will be in a group with the 59-year-old Langer, who is looking to make history by winning the major for the fourth straight year.
After finishing a 4-under 68 with bogeys on two of his last three holes, Pavin said he wasn't paying much attention to Langer's performance. In fact, the 1995 U.S. Open champion said he didn't even know he was in the lead for much of the round.
"I had no idea, actually," Pavin said. "I like to watch the leader board on Sunday. … When I finished, I asked my caddie, 'What's leading?' I didn't even know what was going on. I was just trying to pay attention to my own game at this stage of the tournament."
Each started Friday at 7 under, one shot behind first-round leader Larry Mize, who faded with a 4-over 76. Pavin birdied the first five holes to take as much as four-shot lead. After making bogey on the par-4 opening hole, Langer started to play catch-up, and eventually did.
He had a string of four straight birdies to start the back nine and added another on the par-5 16th, after making just two birdies on the front nine. That got the tournament's three-time defending champion to 13 under before play again was suspended at 5:44 p.m. after a second storm neared.
Play finally was called at 6:19 p.m. Ten groups were left on the course, and play will be resumed at 7:45 a.m. Saturday. The third round will begin about 11 a.m., playing off both the first and 10th tees.
Pavin, whose first bogey in 27 holes on the par-4 10th came right before the first delay Friday, said the first stoppage made things difficult. Though he buried a 12-foot birdie putt on his first stroke after the delay, as well as a subsequent birdie on the par-3 13th that gave him the four-shot lead, Pavin seemed to falter late.
"I thought it was a good day. The rain delay is always a tough thing to deal with," Pavin said. "All in all, I was pretty pleased with the way I played. I did a lot of good things out there. I'm looking forward to the weekend now."
Maybe seeing his old rival Langer in the same threesome Saturday will help.
Not only did they play in many of the same PGA Tour tournaments, they also always seemed to face each other in the Ryder Cup, including four of five matches at Oak Hill Country Club in 1995. Though Langer was part of the winning European team that year, Pavin won three of the matches, including singles.
Asked whether he's starting to feel some of his old game coming back, Pavin said: "I don't know if it ever left. It feels good when I start a round like that or I just feel comfortable, whatever's happening out there. You don't have to birdie five holes in a row. I can make a couple of birdies, make a lot of good putts, good shots that might not show up on the scorecard, but I know that I'm playing better and I'm playing well, and that's what I'm striving for."
Pavin is 14 months out from elbow surgery to repair a torn tendon, which sidelined him for nearly 11 months. Since he returned in March, Pavin's play has been erratic, including a recent U.S. Senior Open where he followed scores of 66 in the first and third rounds with a 73 and 76, respectively.
Before coming to Baltimore, Pavin visited his longtime sports psychologist, Dr. Richard Coop, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
"I'm just trying to get out there and play golf the way I know how to play, relax and let it happen, not make it happen," Pavin said. "That's what I'm trying to do this week, and where the cards fall, they fall. Usually, when you have a good attitude like that, the cards usually fall in a pretty good place. No guarantees. It's more likely to be a good ending."