ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — This year, it’s Mark Calcavecchia doing the old guys proud.
The 1989 British Open champion posted the early low score of the day with a 5-under 67 Friday, his best round ever at the Old Course. He was still five strokes back with first-round leader Rory McIlroy not even at the course, but it’s pretty good for a guy making the shuffle to the senior tour after turning 50 on June 12.
“It’s confidence,” Calcavecchia said. “You see a guy like Tom Watson last year almost winning at 60. It doesn’t really matter how old you are if you’re feeling good about what you’re doing. I think old guys can hang with the young guys.”
And nowhere, it seems, is age merely a number than at the British Open.
Two years ago, Greg Norman nearly won his third claret jug at 53, taking a two-shot lead into the final round at Royal Birkdale. Watson’s showing at Turnberry last year was even more amazing. A few months shy of his 60th birthday, he went to the 72nd hole with a one-stroke lead.
Both fell short of becoming the oldest major champion in golf history, a title that still belongs to Julius Boros, who was 48 when he captured the 1968 PGA. Now it’s up to Calcavecchia to see if he can finish the senior surge.
“It’s a good spot to be in,” Calcavecchia said. “I didn’t really think about where I was going to be in the tournament, there’s still six hours of tee times left. I’m just happy to have a tee time for tomorrow.”
While the monstrous lengths at U.S. Open courses and even Augusta National often take their toll on the senior set – heck, they’re tough on the youngsters, too – nowhere does experience matter more than at a links course, where fickle weather, deceptive greens and fairways filled with humps and bumps make every hole an adventure.
Calcavecchia hasn’t played the other majors in two years. But he’s missed only two cuts at the British Open since 1999. The only real miscue – if you can call it that – in his bogey-free round Friday came on 17. After eagling the Road Hole on Thursday, he missed an 8-footer for birdie Friday.
“I always enjoy the Open. Having not played well at St. Andrews in the past doesn’t mean anything to me,” said Calcavecchia, whose previous best round at St. Andrews was a 69 in 2000. “I know the course and I got a few good breaks out there, missed a couple of bunkers by a couple of yards, and it’s a difference of a couple of shots. Your ball rolls into one of those things, and who knows what you’re going to make.
“You need a few good breaks out here, and so far I’ve gotten them.”
It’s been a while since Calcavecchia has been in the mix at a major, and Norman and Watson set the bar pretty high. But Calcavecchia is going to enjoy this – and not simply because this is one of those rare tournaments where wife Brenda is on the bag. Or because he gets to enjoy a pint or two of that Scottish ale he enjoys so much.
“When you’re 30, I don’t think you think about it. I thought 50-year-olds were pretty (darn) old when I was 30,” Calcavecchia said. “Or your parents are 50, you think, ‘How can anybody be that old?’ But now that I’m 50, you really don’t think about what you were thinking about when you were 30.
“I haven’t grown up any. I’m still 30,” Calcavecchia said. “I may feel 50 or 60. But inside, I’m still 30.”