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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    McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.