You speak before a crowd measuring into the thousands. Lights beating down and eyes glaring, you stand tall and authoritative for 25 minutes. Only five minutes left. Then it happens.
A note-card is out of place. No. 12 goes to No. 14. You scramble for unlucky 13, but its not there. Youre lost. You look up and see faces cringing; people uncomfortably adjusting in their seats.
The thoughts are there, but not the ones needed to form the appropriate words. You stumble, you sweat, you panic. Youre toast ' and everyones a witness.
This was Mark Calcavecchia in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Leading Colin Montgomerie 4-up with four to play, he finished with nothing more than a halve.
What happened over those final four holes was shocking. Painful to watch and embarrassing to endure.
It started with a triple bogey at the 15th, and continued with a bogey at the 16th. But when Montgomerie hit his tee ball into the water on the par-4 17th, it seemed Calcavecchia was back in command.
Instead, he hit a low, dying flare that skipped once before drowning in the water hazard right of the fairway. He then missed a 2 -foot putt for double bogey to lose his third straight hole.
Number 4 came courtesy of a bogey at 18.
Afterwards, the 1989 British Open champion walked to the nearby beach at Kiawah Island and began crying uncontrollably ' to the point where paramedics had to treat him for hyperventilation.
To make matters worse, that turn of events came on the heels of a Sunday collapse two years prior at The Belfry, when Calcavecchia lost his singles match to Ronan Rafferty after hitting two shots into the water on the final hole.
Calcavecchia didnt lose his match in '91, nor did that collapse cost his country their first Ryder Cup victory since 1983. The U.S. won back the Cup, 14 - 13 , at The War by the Shore.
Still, there was an emptiness inside of Calcavecchia.
I just had the feeling like I lost the Ryder Cup in 1991, and thats what I couldnt deal with, he said.
Fast-forward 11 years and Calcavecchia is once again representing the Red, White and Blue. Hes won five times on the PGA Tour since his last Cup appearance, and set the tours 72-hole scoring record along the way. But most of all, Time has fully salved Kiawahs wounds.
Its good to be back on the team, he said. This Ryder Cup, I know Ill have a much better mental attitude going into the thing, saying Im one of 12 guys, and all I can do is my best.
Despite competing in his first Cup in over a decade, only Davis Love III (four appearances) has more experience than Calcavecchia. In 1999, Hal Sutton was in a similar situation.
It was 12 years since I played and I was in my 40s and didnt think Id ever get to play again, said Sutton, a team member in 1985, 87 and 99. Im well versed in what hes feeling and I think he should be very proud of his accomplishment to get back on the team.
Sutton went 3-0-1 in his Ryder Cup return, providing the team with points and emotional leadership.
Calcavecchia might not be a clubhouse Patton, but hes a birdie general, capable of marching past an opponent.
The 42-year-old has a career 5-5-1 record in three previous Matches (1987, 89 and 91). He says he likes the comfort of better-ball, but is 0-4 in that format compared to 4-0 in alternate shot.
I dont know what Im going to play or how much Im going to play. A lot depends on how well Im playing, he said. Hopefully, Ill be physically all right and able to play in all five matches.
Calcavecchias primary physical concern ' among many ' is a bad back. The 21-year tour veteran isnt shy about rolling around in the short grass mid-round to soothe the soreness.
As bad as his back has been, his game hasnt been much better this year. Coming off a victorious 2001 campaign that helped him finish fourth in the Ryder Cup standings, he has one top-10 in his last 11 starts.
I havent had a great year by any stretch, he said. But that doesnt mean that I wont play great at the end of September.
If Calcavecchias cards are in order this time, he can help his team keep the Cup. In the process, he can ' never erase ' but replace those tearful memories stored in historys vault with ones more fitting one of the teams best.
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