COREY Pavin could never be described as a golfing heavyweight. Standing just five feet nine inches tall and tipping the scales at a mere 140 pounds, he is a David among the modern-day golfing Goliaths. He may lack the brute strength to overpower a golf course in the manner of a Norman or a Daly, but Pavin has never been intimidated, nor overawed, by the greater physical stature of his rivals. His record bears testament to that. In nine years on the US PGA Tour, Pavin has won on 10 occasions and accumulated almost US$5 million in earnings, topping the US money list in 1991. Brain not brawn is the philosophy of the man whose hallmarks are a demonstratively combative nature and a wizardly short game. Without exception, the big guns with whom Pavin has been slugging it out at Royal St George's express nothing but admiration and respect for the little man with one of the biggest hearts in the game. ''Corey Pavin is one of the smartest, fieriest players in the game,'' said the eloquent Nick Price, joint fifth after the third round, three shots behind pace-setting Pavin and defending champion Nick Faldo and two adrift of Greg Norman and Bernhard Langer. ''If you look at Greg Norman or me, we have big drives and good short games. Corey was not given a lot when he started. He does not hit the ball very far. But he is the fiercest competitor I have ever met and a great tactician. ''Links courses are just made for him. He manoeuvres the ball so well through the humps and hollows and his short game is one of the best out there.'' Norman, Langer and Faldo expressed similar sentiments. ''He is one of the most under-estimated players in the game,'' said Norman. ''He can almost make the ball talk.'' Listen to Langer. ''He may not be as long as Norman and other players, but he has wonderful imagination. He can draw the ball or fade it and his short game is brilliant. That is important around here.'' Even Faldo, not known for exalting the qualities of his fellow professionals, conceded: ''He is a good shot-maker. That is what he does well. He manoeuvres the ball around and that's why he is up there.'' Following his two-under-par 68 on Saturday to add to earlier returns of 68 and 66, the 33-year-old Californian himself was in no doubt that his prospects of capturing his first major crown were real. He said: ''I have played pretty solid and not made any glaring errors so far. I played smart golf today and I did not let the situation bother me. I did not change my disposition at all and I will not change in the final round. ''I am always ready to win my first major. All the cards are in place. I am playing very well. I'm in the best position I have ever been in going into the last round of a major and my game is mature enough to win.'' In eight previous Open appearances, Pavin missed the cut three times. His only top-20 finish came at St Andrew's in 1990 when he tied for eighth. Yet he considers he had opportunities to win at both Augusta and Baltusrol this year, events in which he eventually ended tied for 11th and tied for 19th. ''I feel I had chances to win the Masters and the US Open and made mistakes . . . but I'm learning from it.'' As far as his length, or lack of it, is concerned, Pavin has no hang-ups. ''I have made a swing change which has added yards to my hitting and that's definitely helped. I'm hitting it as long as at any time in my life,'' he said. ''I feel I am doing a lot of things well. There are no weaknesses now. I'm not saying that everything is perfect, but I am confident with every aspect of my game.'' Pavin likes to be portrayed as his own man. He said: ''The only expectations I have are my own. What other people think, or say, doesn't have a bearing on how I judge myself as a golfer. ''I have always been competitive throughout my life. I don't like to lose and every time I go out I'm trying to win.''