SNOQUALMIE, Wash. (AP) — Throughout his career, blading a sand shot into the lip of a bunker, advancing it all of 10 yards and eventually making bogey might send Mark Caclavecchia off the rails.
Those types of moments – one exact, others similar – popped up Sunday.
And each time, Calcavecchia kept this cool.
“At times (Calcavecchia) could come to a situation that may irritate him or bother him a little bit or throw him off a little bit,” playing partner Russ Cochran said. “He never had that today.”
Calcavecchia won the Boeing Classic on Sunday for his first Champions Tour title, holding off Cochran with a two-putt birdie on the first hole of a playoff. Cochran forced the playoff by making a 12-foot eagle putt on the final hole of regulation.
But after 30 previous starts on the 50-and-over tour, Calcavecchia finally found his breakthrough and snapped a four-year victory drought since the PGA Tour’s 2007 PODS Championship. It was his third victory in the Pacific Northwest, following wins in the 1997 Greater Vancouver Open and 2005 Canadian Open.
Earlier this year, Calcavecchia lost by two shots to Cochran in the Senior British Open and blew a big third-round lead at the Regions Tradition. Cochran left Calcavecchia behind in the Senior British after Calcavecchia four-putted the ninth hole in the final round.
“I think this will help me down the road. I have let a few tournaments, let a lot of tournaments get away my whole career. I kind of have that fault,” Calcavecchia said. “It’s not that I’m not tough, but I don’t always play so well the back nine when I need to.”
Calcavecchia and Cochran shot 7-under 65s on Sunday, tied for the lowest rounds of the tournament.
There were plenty of opportunities for Calcavecchia, a 13-time PGA Tour winner, to let this one get away in the same way he watched those chances to win earlier this year disappear.
There was the bunker fiasco on No. 8; tee shots into the rough on Nos. 14 and 15 where Calcavecchia had to scramble for pars, and a 100-yard second shot on the 16th that came up 15 yards short.
But that’s where Calcavecchia recovered and set off a wild finish. He chipped in for birdie while Cochran’s 10-foot birdie putt came up short to take a one-shot lead. On No. 17, Calcavecchia’s tee shot to a difficult back-right pin guarded by water in front nestled on the fringe, while Cochran’s shot to the middle of the green caught a ridge and finally settled inches from the cup. While Cochran waited to tap in for birdie, Calcavecchia rolled in his putt from the fringe to stay a shot ahead.
Calcavecchia seemed in better position off the tee on the 18th, but Cochran’s second shot from more than 200 yards on the uphill, 498-yard par 5 rolled about 12 feet behind the pin. Calcavecchia was left with a 30-foot putt that curled just below the hole and Cochran forced the pair to play the 18th once more by making his eagle putt.
“Every time he had to make a putt he made it,” Calcavecchia said.
In the playoff, Calcavecchia found nearly the same spot on the 18th green as he did regulation, while Cochran pulled his second shot into a greenside bunker. Cochran’s bunker shot bounced past the pin into the rough and Calcavecchia two-putted for the title.
“Today he looked like no matter what was going to happen, that he was going to keep coming and keep making birdies and keep doing good things,” Cochran said about his neighbor in Florida. “That’s a big difference. That’s what we all kind of strive for.”
Chip Beck (68) birdied four of the final five holes to finish third at 9 under.
Jeff Sluman (71) was fourth at 8 under.
Hometown favorite Fred Couples put a charge into his large gallery by dropping in an eagle on No. 1 to get to 4 under, only to give back both shots on the second hole when he pushed his tee shot right and couldn’t find his ball. Couples had to go back and re-tee and ended up making double bogey on the hole, followed with another bogey on the fifth. He ended up with a 73 to tie for 16th at 1 under.
“A couple of putts here and there would have helped but I was pretty erratic,” said Couples, who won the Senior Players Championship last week in New York. “I made a lot of bogeys and a lot of very mediocre shots.”