Calcs Putter an On-Again Off-Again Saga
Take, for instance, the year 1997. I missed two 12-inch putts at the British Open, he said, and I thought, How can I expect to win a golf tournament if I cant make a 12-inch putt?
He was talking just moments after he had won his eighth PGA Tour victory, the 1997 Greater Vancouver Open. Now called the Air Canada Championships, it is a relatively new tournament that has been in existence since 1996. Calcavecchia won the second event, closing with a 65-66 when his putter was very hot.
In the late 1980s, when I was making everything, if I missed a two- or three-foot putt, the next hole, Id make a 30-foot putt, said Calc, just moments after he missed a three-footer on the 71st hole but still won at Vancouver. That was about the only blemish, as Calcavecchia surged up the leaderboard on Saturday and Sunday with a putter he had borrowed from Jeff Maggert.
You see, Calc had broken his own roller in a fit of anger Friday. He looked inside Maggerts locker and saw the Ping Anser Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, Maggerts putter (fortunately it was a spare) was out of Maggerts locker in Calcavecchias bag.
There was considerable conjecture of whether Maggert would ever see the putter again. The question was posed to Calcavecchia, who paused for only a second.
It depends on how bad he wants it, said Calc. I had a tremendous time this week. Any tournament anyone wins, a lot of good things happen to them.
Usually, though, its not courtesy of a pilfered putter. Oh ' Calc did tell Maggert of his thievery. Mags, said a note hastily left in Maggerts locker, Im the one who has it, so dont panic ' Calc.
That, though, is the story of Calcavecchia in the 90s. He has changed putters ' and putting styles ' as frequently as he has changed shirts.
Calcavecchia was brilliant in winning the British Open in 89, making birdie on the 72nd hole, then defeating Greg Norman and Wayne Grady in a playoff. But in 1991 there were already cracks in his putting armor. He borrowed a 52-inch putter from Bruce Lietzke and put it in his bag for one round at The Memorial.
It came up to my neck, he said of the broomstick putter. Calcavecchia had it shortened and carried it as a second putter, discarding his 3-iron. But Calcavecchia didnt use the long putter, and the next day his regulation model was again the only one he carried.
When I went back to my short one, it felt good, Calc explained at the time. Hopefully, I wont have to go back to it for another 15 or 20 years.
It was a few years later that Calcavecchia feared he had really lost the stroke. It was when he felt he could no longer putt like most everyone else, that the old magic was truly gone.
I remember the day my putting left me, he said. It was my birthday, June 12, 1995; practice round for the Open at Shinnecock Hills. I played Phil (Mickelson) in a practice round and missed about six four-footers. Ended up losing a lot to him. And I putted just awful in the tournament, missed the cut. Something changed.
From there, his putting really soured. He was 108th in the PGA Tour rankings in 1996, 105th in 98, going as high as 136th in 99. The guy who was a pretty fair putter in the 80s had sunk just about as low as you can go.
I tried everything ' cross-handed, split-handed, eyes open, eyes shut, one eye open, one eye shut, said Calc. Tried putting with ' tried my left eye shut. So I figured if I looked at the ball with one eye, I couldnt see anything out there. I wouldnt peek. So I would hit it and wait for the ball to disappear and looked. It didnt work. That was no good. No good at all.
In pure desperation, Calcavecchia tried something new at the Players Championship in 2000, a move of absolute surrender. It was the claw, a putting grip made popular by Chris DiMarco. It was Friday, just before he began his second round.
Five minutes before I teed off, I just tried it, he said. I rolled in a 25-footer on 1 for birdie, 15-footer for birdie on 2, and an eight-footer for par on 3. I was like, Im back.
He jumped to 56th in putting in 2000, but he still wasnt where he wanted to be ' not totally. He still was much too spotty, going through stretches when nothing was falling. Thats when he came up with the belly-claw.
He talked about it at the Players this year, about the new styles derivation. I wasnt yipping it or anything with my regular Claw grip, but all of a sudden I wasnt making anything, he began.
Doral was awful putting. Honda was painful. Putted really bad. Id win that tournament if I putted anywhere near decent. Last week wasnt much better. I used three putters at Bay Hill ' went through my whole rotation.
Then he saw Lee Westwood, who had missed the cut at the Players, but was hanging around practicing. Westwood asked how it was going and Calcavecchia told him, Awful. Westwood mentioned that he had a bellybutton putter in his locker. No, but thanks, said Calc.
Then I started thinking about it the next morning and putted with it on the putting green, and just tried an open stance with a Claw, said Calcavecchia.
It felt pretty good, but I didnt have the nerve to use it. But sure enough, I took it up to Augusta with me on Monday and made putts from everywhere.
Its unusual, the first day you try something like that, youre usually a little shaky with it. But I think its another revelation in my putting saga.
Its Calcavecchias putting style du jour, but he says this one is going to stick around for awhile.
It may pass as a fad, but not for me, he said. I can still putt conventionally, whacking it around on the practice green, and its all fine and dandy. But even if I play in a pro-am with a conventional grip, Ill feel a little tug ' its not the free-flowing, confident stroke that I have with the claw.
Calc is conscious of how he looks with the odd putting style, but desperate situations call for desperate measures. More often than not over his long career, he will carry two putters when things look really bleak.
Its usually just two different kinds of 35-inch (regular) putters, he said. The only time I carried the real long one, I didnt put another one in. But Ive carried two putters before and just took out a 6-iron or something. It was probably a case where it was Sunday and I was about the second group off the tee and it really didnt matter.
It was at the forerunner to the Air Canada, though, when he really has hot with the roller. In 1997, he was a short-putter wizard for a week. He hopes the longer putter is good for years to come.
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x