Mark Calcavecchia seeks win on 20-year anniversary

By Doug FergusonJuly 17, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Past champions gather at St. Andrews every time the British Open returns to the home of golf. Just his luck, the first time Mark Calcavecchia was invited to the party, he was holding the Claret Jug.
And it wasnt quite empty.
He had been celebrating one last time his 1989 playoff victory at Royal Troon when it was time for the dinner, and Calcavecchia was still not up to speed on British colloquialisms.
We were drinking champagne out of the jug, he said Friday. There was something on the invite that said 7:30 for 8:00, and I had no idea what that meant. Time kind of went by and I dont think I rinsed the jug real well. I think there was still some champagne swishing around in there when I brought it back.
Mark Calcavecchia
Mark Calcavecchia won the Open Championship 20 years ago. (Getty Images)
Calcavecchia looks forward to the dinner next year at St. Andrews.
And based on the way he has played the opening two rounds at Turnberry, he might just have the Claret Jug with him again.
Around the toughest stretch, with shots into a chilly wind and over cliffs along the Firth of Clyde, Calcavecchia came up with just enough birdies to carry him to a 1-under 69 that left him one shot out of the lead.
At 49 and with a body that is breaking down, he isnt sure he can win anywhere until he gets to the Champions Tour next year. Links golf is different, though, and Calcavecchia didnt need to see 59-year-old Tom Watson atop the leaderboard to know that.
Im swinging well enough, and Im driving it great, Calcavecchia said. I seem to be hitting a lot of fairways. So if I can keep doing that, obviously if you can keep it out of the tall stuff, youre going to have a better chance.
There is one element that Calcavecchia has had on his side.
Im getting some good bounces, getting lucky on occasion, he said, which always helps.
Turnberry turns nasty starting at the par-3 fourth, a stretch of holes that run into a wind rarely felt in these parts, coming off the land and slightly from the north. Thats where everyone was dropping shots.
Calcavecchia played them in 1 under.
The key was somehow reaching the 10th green and holing a 40-foot birdie putt, a good sign that he could post a good score. With the wind in his favor, he poured it on. Calcavecchia hit a 7-iron to 2 feet on the 12th, then a 6-iron on the 14th that hopped onto the green and caught part of the lip before settling a few feet away.
I just wanted to stay away from big numbers, which a lot of guys were making out there ' doubles and triples and quads and whatever, he said. A few bogeys here and there werent going to kill you.
The surprise is the timing of Calcavecchia seeing his name on the leaderboard. After good weeks at Pebble Beach and Riviera, he has gone into a funk. He hasnt finished in the top 20 since February, and in five tournaments he has either missed the cut or withdrew as his back gets cranky.
He had to play 36 holes last Sunday to compete the rain-delayed John Deere Classic, and it about killed him.
This is about the second time this year I didnt struggle to make the cut, so Im just happy with that, he said. Im usually choking so bad coming down the last few holes on Friday because I want to play the weekend. I felt great today. Even when I was 2 over through five, I knew I was going to make some birdies somewhere.
Perhaps its a coincidence that Calcavecchia won his British Open at Royal Troon, about 15 miles up the Ayrshire coast, when he shot 68 in the final round and got into a three-way playoff with Wayne Grady and Greg Norman, who shot 64 that day. Calcavecchia birdied the last two holes to win.
He is among the few U.S. players who were at Turnberry when it last hosted the Open in 1994, and they were grilling him on the charter flight from Illinois. Asked if he was a mentor to younger players, such as co-leader Steve Marino, Calcavecchia chuckled.
I would never think Im the type of guy anybody could learn anything from, to tell you the truth, he said. And I think experience is way overrated. All that means is Ive hit more bad shots than all the guys that are 20 years old, and theyre lingering in my brain.
There havent been too many bad shots over 36 holes at Turnberry. The question is whether he can hold up for two more rounds.
And if that happens, what will be in the bottom of the Claret Jug.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The 138th Open Championship
  • Getty Images

    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

    Getty Images

    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

    Getty Images

    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

    Getty Images

    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.