Calcs Putter an On-Again Off-Again Saga

By George WhiteAugust 26, 2002, 4:00 pm
Hes forever looking for a magic putting elixir, this 1989 British Open champion. Frequently, Mark Calcavecchia finds it. Just as frequently, he loses it. But dont despair, he will find it again ' just as he will, invariably, lose it again.
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.
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McCarthy wins Tour Championship by 4

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2018, 2:14 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.

McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Tour Finals.

''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''

McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.

Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.

''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''

The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.

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LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 1:52 am

ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?

Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.

“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).

“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”

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For Woods, is this only the beginning?

By Damon HackSeptember 24, 2018, 1:42 am

If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.

This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.

To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.

To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.

On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.

Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time. 

It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense.  Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.

And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.

Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.

Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.

Final FedExCup standings

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Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.

There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.

He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.

Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.

But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard. 

There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.

Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.

He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.

That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.

Why go through all of that rehab again?

Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?

Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.

Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.

Woods has put the golf world on notice.

It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).

The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.

The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.

But that’s a talk for a later date.

Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.

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Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2018, 1:04 am

ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.

McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.

McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.

In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.

Final FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.

The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”

It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.