2005: One little birdie does trick for Calc

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Vancouver, British Columbia

Mark Calcavecchia always has been known as a birdie machine. But he broke his 41⁄2-year victory drought with a bunch of pars.

The 45-year-old Calcavecchia made only one birdie the final two days in winning the Bell Canadian Open Sept. 11, and his 5-under 275 total was the highest winning score for a full-field, non-major PGA Tour event this year.

This is the same guy, remember, who set or tied seven Tour records with his 32 birdies and 28-under 256 total at the 2001 Phoenix Open, where he shot 60-64 on back-to-back days.

At the challenging Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, however, Calcavecchia was just happy to be the one left standing at the end. No player in the last four threesomes broke par, and only seven players managed to do so in the final round.

“I felt like it was a 36-hole day,” said Calcavecchia, who shot 1-over 71 Sunday to win by a stroke over Ben Crane (66) and rookie Ryan Moore (70). “Thank God we ran out of holes.”

The picturesque course, made tougher by its shaggy rough, was anything but a vacation for the world’s top players. Hosting its first Canadian Open since 1966, the par-70 layout’s four-day scoring average

of 72.555 ranked second-toughest on Tour this year. Only the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, which played 4.166 strokes above par, was more difficult.

“One birdie on the weekend and I win the tournament. I bet that’s never happened,” Calcavecchia said after earning his 12th career victory and becoming the event’s oldest champion. “But only seven bogeys all week. A lot of guys probably made seven bogeys today.”

Since that record-setting week in Phoenix, Calcavecchia had fallen on hard times, steadily dropping from No. 17 on the PGA Tour money list in 2001 to No. 53 in ’02, No. 65 in ’03 and all the way to 112th last year.

He suffered through a sleep apnea problem that was treated after the 2002 season, and his confidence was eroded by on-and-off struggles with his putting.

“I’ve got to admit I never thought I’d win again, let alone on a golf course like this, in a tournament this big,” said Calcavecchia, who opened with rounds of 65-67 before Shaughnessy became a test for survival.

“I have my moments where I’m pretty good (but) I have a lot of self doubt and a lot of demons that float around inside of my head.”

Make no mistake, his putting wasn’t great Sunday – his only birdie since the second round came at the par-4 fifth hole – but he made just enough to win.

Three times he got up-and-down for par on the front nine, including saves from the sand on Nos. 3 and 6. However, Calcavecchia missed short birdie putts at Nos. 2, 7, 14 and 15.

“My putter may be replaced sometime soon, or thrown away,” he said.

Calcavecchia ended any chance of a playoff by sticking his second shot at No. 18 within 6 feet, then lagged his putt to tap-in range.

“I saved my best drive and my best iron for the last hole, and knew I could two-putt from 6 feet,” he said. “How embarrassing to lag from 6 feet.”

Calc’s streak not only stopped a skid, it also continued a recent trend. He was the third consecutive winner in his mid-40s, joining 44-year-old Brad Faxon at the Buick Championship and

46-year-old Olin Browne at the Deutsche Bank.

“It’s been a good stretch for the old guys. . . . I would hope that would give a lot of hope to some of the other guys out there in their middle 40s that are struggling a little bit,” Calcavecchia said.

A pair of young guys also had success – new for one, becoming old hat for another.

Moore, who had made the cut in two of four events since turning pro following the U.S. Open, birdied the final hole for his best finish as a pro.

“I gave myself a couple of good opportunities that just slid by,” said Moore, the 2004 U.S. Amateur, U.S. Public Links and NCAA champion whose best pro finish had been a tie for 51st at the Barclays Classic.

“I had it within my grasp. It was really close, and hopefully I can seal the deal next time.”

Crane, one of the few who wasn’t shamed by Shaughnessy on Sunday, almost caught Calcavecchia by matching the day’s best round. The steadily improving fourth-year pro, who won at Milwaukee in July and finished second at the Booz Allen Classic, shot 74 in Round 1 and at that point wasn’t sure he’d even be playing Sunday.

“I just wanted to see if I could slip in there and make the cut,” Crane said. “Sometimes unexpected things happen.”

Such as a birdie machine winning with only one weekend birdie.

– Staff and wire reports

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