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You might wonder what a 62-year-old, with two gammy knees and who can’t break 80, is doing playing in The Open. What are we doing clogging up the field with a player who will very likely miss the cut when the likes of Jason Day and Rickie Fowler can’t make it in?
Of all the quirks of The Open qualification, and there are many, this is one of the great ones. It’s not often many want to heap praise on the R&A but this is one of them – the cut-off mark for the past champions to take up a place in the field is to be 60 or under on July 17.
Mark Calcavecchia is now 62 but, due to the 2020 Championship being postponed and the American being injured for St George’s, he was asked if he’d like to sign off at St Andrews.
“When I got the email from Martin Slumbers, when he said the committee has unanimously agreed to have you play your last Open here at St Andrews, that was a great night. That was a great email I got. I've really been looking forward to it for quite a while,” he explained. “Unfortunately, my knees are really bad, both of them. I'm thinking knee surgery here is looming. Anyway, got around. My goal was to make the cut. I thought I could do that, but then I just got off to a crappy start. After that, I was just trying to make pars, basically.”
The final figures read rounds of 82-83 and an accumulative 21-over total. There were a couple of birdies and not much else to like but none of that mattered. He’s now played in 30 Opens, made the cut in 19 of them and, of course, he won at Troon in 1989. While many will point to Greg Norman driving into the fairway bunker at the 18th in extra holes, Calcavecchia played the four holes in two under.
Calcavecchia’s cool. Not in the modern sense of being stylish and athletic, more in being laid back and normal. He once told me that he would bring a four pack along for the end of the day as nobody wanted to go to the pub any more. This week he's staying next door to the Dunvegan pub just around the corner from the 1st tee.
While most of his peers will be stretching and pumping endless balls ahead of their rounds, Calcavecchia would head straight to the 1st tee despite being up for three hours.
“I set the alarm for 5:00, but I actually got up at 3:35 to go to the restroom, and I started looking at my iPad, and I figured there's no point in going back to bed at that point. That's no problem. We went to bed early. I'm an early riser anyway.
“I didn't go to the range so I was a little stiff. That's not quite as easy but I figured I could get it in the 1st fairway somewhere. Pulled my driver a bit, but I hit a beautiful 9-iron, and I thought, all right, let's go out and have a good day. But the putting was brutal all week. Had a good shot and missed it and kept three-putting after that.”
Calcavecchia actually got to the hit the opening shot of the day, another cool initiative by the R&A, and despite not finishing in front of packed grandstands on a balmy Friday night, the final send-off was more than enough. With his wife on the bag, Calcavecchia’s son, daughter and son-in-law were there to send him on his way on their first visit to the old town.
“I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I felt it. I felt the emotions. Got a little mildly choked up, I'm usually a pretty emotional person," he said. "Yeah, sad movies or something, I'll shed a tear. I’m not like Steve Stricker, but I get a little choked up sometimes. All the way around, the last two days, the fans were great. They were cheering for me and pulling for me, and they’re aware that this was my last Open. So that was pretty cool. It means a lot. It really does.
“We're going to hang around all weekend. I was planning on playing next week at the Senior Open over at Gleneagles. But the way my knee's feeling, I don't think I'll be able to do that but we'll see.”
Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.
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