Heart Still Ticking for Calcavecchia

By Associated PressMarch 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 PODS ChampionshipPALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Mark Calcavecchia was still dazed over his amazing turnaround at Innisbrook when he interrupted a PGA TOUR official who started to tick off all the things that came with his one-shot victory in the PODS Championship.
'A heart attack,' Calcavecchia deadpanned.
Given the look on his face, and the wild swing in emotion and expectations, it wasn't immediately clear if he was joking.
Not many players beat themselves up as badly for Calcavecchia, especially when it comes to putting. It got so bad in the opening round Thursday -- he took 36 putts and shot 75 -- that he packed his bags so he could beat the traffic out of town when he missed the cut.
But after trying out his sixth putter in his last six rounds (this one he bought for $256.18 at a golf store), he got back into the game with a 67, then tied the Copperhead course record with a 62 in the third round.
The final hole Sunday nearly did him in.
With a one-shot lead and a perfect tee shot, he slid off an 8-iron just enough to come up a yard shot into grass so thick his caddie had to find it for him. He chopped out to 7 feet and missed the winning par putt.
Moments later, Heath Slocum's 4-foot par putt to force a playoff spun around the left side of the cup. At that point, the 46-year-old Calcavecchia could only bow his head and cup his hand over the bill of his cap.
'I never felt like this after winning the tournament,' said Calcavecchia, who now has 13 titles in a career that spans a quarter-century. 'I'm still partially stunned at what happened. No one has ever missed a putt to let me win a tournament. Any time anybody has ever needed to make a putt against me, they usually make it. I was expecting Heath to make it.'
Typical of his week, nothing went according to plan.
Calcavecchia is one of the streakiest players in golf, which he showed in 2001 when he won the Phoenix Open at 256, which at the time was a 72-hole scoring record on the PGA TOUR. But he can't think of another time when he flipped the switch during a tournament.
'From where I was Thursday, maybe it's just a fairy-tale week,' Calcavecchia said. 'This stuff doesn't happen to me -- from bottom to top in three days. I know things happen in a hurry in this game, but that's a record for me. From no chance, no hope, missed cut to victory. I'm just stunned.'
No telling what the future holds for Calcavecchia.
Last year at this tournament -- that would only four months ago because of a change in the schedule -- Calcavecchia was desperate to secure his spot in the top 125 so he could be eligible for The Players Championship.
The victory was worth $954,000 and moved him up to No. 7 on the money list. That not only made him eligible for the World Golf Championship at Doral in two weeks, if he can stay in the top 10 through Doral, he'll be on his way to the Masters.
'I was planning on being somewhere else,' he said. 'Hopefully, I'll be in Augusta.'
A chunk of that cash goes to his caddie, Eric Larson, to whom victory probably tasted even sweeter. Larson got caught up in the middle of a small-time drug operation, sending small quantities of cocaine to friends in the Midwest. He paid a steep price for his mistake, getting shipped off to prison for 11 years.
Calcavecchia promised him a job when he got out last year, so this was one victory that made both feel good.
'He's been a great friend throughout the whole ordeal,' Larson said. 'I'm thankful and grateful for my friends who stood by me.'
The numbers were still numbing to Calcavecchia even as he got ready to leave Innisbrook and repack his bags.
His 75 was the highest opening round by a PGA TOUR winner in 10 years, dating to Jeff Sluman in Tucson in 1997. He closed with a 70 to finish at 10-under 274. While he opened with 36 putts, he used only 73 putts over the final three rounds.
And his paycheck took him over $20 million for his career, which was a real shocker.
'Hard to believe -- $3 million in debt and I've won $20 million,' he said, and the room again erupted in laughter.
Calcavecchia rarely fails to make people laugh, mostly at his expense. His self-deprecating humor is second to none in golf.
This time, he was able to laugh along.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.