Calcavecchia swings for consistency at PGA

Tied for clubhouse lead, he eyes second major title

Golf

August 17, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

CHASKA, Minn. - Mark Calcavecchia is one of the streakiest players in professional golf, and not always for the good.

Take last month's British Open. In contention after shooting a second-round 66, Calcavecchia followed an early double bogey with a triple bogey in the wind, rain and cold at Muirfield and shot himself out of contention with an 81.

And there's the good Calcavecchia, the former British Open champion who holds the PGA Tour's all-time scoring record for a single event (a 28-under-par 256 in last year's Phoenix Open).

Calcavecchia, 42, hopes that player shows up for the weekend in the 84th PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club. A 4-under-par 68 in yesterday's second round gave Calcavecchia a share of the lead among the players who finished before lightning suspended play early last night.

"I'm historically not a great summer player for some reason," said Calcavecchia, who is one of four players at 6-under par 138, tied for the clubhouse lead. "I usually do OK through April and then seem to go on about a three-month vacation. Why I don't know. I wish I could tell you."

Calcavecchia, whose best finish this year was second at the Greater Greensboro Open in late April, has been concerned of late about his impending trip to England for next month's Ryder Cup. It has less to do with his nearly blowing the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island, S.C., as it does with his erratic performance since making the team last year.

"My interest level has been there," he said. "I've thrown in some pretty hard work last week, which I probably need to do more of. But I just got lazy, basically. Honestly, I'm just kind of waiting for this Ryder Cup gig to happen, and I've been through a little bit of stress about that because of the way I've been playing."

Calcavecchia recalled what U.S. captain Curtis Strange said to him before last year's PGA Championship outside Atlanta.

Though his place on the team had been secured, he came into the Atlanta Athletic Club in the midst of his typical summer slump.

"He said, `You'd better get off your butt and start playing good otherwise you'll be riding the pine,'" recalled Calcavecchia, who wound up finishing tied for fourth.

Earlier this week, Calcavecchia said he told Strange, "The way I'm playing, I'll be riding the pine until Sunday. I might as well just fly over there on Sunday and get ready for my singles match."

Despite his recent play, Calcavecchia hopes to have a chance at winning his second major. His first came when he beat Greg Norman and Wayne Grady in a four-hole playoff in the 1989 British Open at Royal Troon.

Justin Leonard and Retief Goosen are also looking to back up their first major championships. It has been five years since Leonard, 30, won the British Open at Royal Troon and a little more than a year since Goosen, 32, won the U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla.

"There's a long way to go yet," Calcavecchia said. "I wouldn't say [a victory] would cap off my career. I wouldn't all of a sudden go into a shell and retire if I won. It would be great, but I would still like to think I've got a lot of years of great golf left."

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