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Rubenstein: Calcavecchia continues to entertain

Mark Calcavecchia of West Palm Beach, Fl., holds his head after making bogey on the 16th hole during the second round of the Canadian Open in Vancouver Friday September 9, 2005. Clacavecchia rallied for a birdie on 18 to give him the early lead at -8.


Mark Calcavecchia has to be one of the best interviews in golf. He doesn't hold back, he says what's on his mind, he has a sense of humour, and, well, it's a gabfest when he talks. The winner of the 1989 Open Championship, the 1997 Greater Vancouver Open, and the 2005 Canadian Open, was on a conference call this morning to promote his appearance June 22-24 in the Champions Tour's Montreal Championship. Here are some highlights:

At 51, Calcavecchia is well aware that a player's putting can get iffy. He's suffered from such issues, for sure. I remember interviewing him as soon as he came off the green after holing his putt of no more than 18 inches to win the Greater Vancouver Open, which became the Air Canada Championship. He shook the putt in and said if it were any longer he might not have been able to make it. And that when he was much younger.

Calcavecchia said he was playing a Champions Tour event in Boca Raton, Fla., and had putted well for the first 47 holes. Then it happened.

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"I got nervous over a four-footer on the 12th, missed it, and then got a bad break on the next hole. Everything went out of whack. That happened with me sometimes."

There you have it. He putts great for 47 holes, gets unaccountably nervous, misses a short putt, and suddenly loses all feel.

No wonder Calcavecchia doesn't mind players using long putters.

"I've tried everything," he said. "It's still hard. You still have to get the right speed, you still have to control your nerves."

Meanwhile, Calcavecchia has made his share of putts. He made nine straight birdies at the 2009 RBC Canadian Open at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont. The course routing had been changed that year, so it worked out that he had four par-fives in the nine holes where he went wild. He had four kick-ins on the par-fives, and made birdie putts on the other five holes.

His licence plate now reads, "9 in a row." That was his wife's idea.

"Lots of people ask me what I means, "Calcavecchia added. He was asked about what appears to be his propensity to play well in Canada, and he had a concise reply.

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"I love Canada," he said. He did return to the subject here and there, adding that he thinks it's a great idea that Golf Canada is moving the Canadian Open around, that Shaughnessy in Vancouver, where he won the 2005 championship, is one of his favourite courses anywhere, and that, well, he's a big fan of Montreal. He had one of the best meals of his eating career there.

"Unfortunately, we got lost," he said. "I had some problems figuring out the street signs."

I asked him about the shot that Bubba Watson hooked, using the curvature of the earth, it seemed, to win the Masters. Okay, just kidding. But Watson hooked his gap wedge some 40 yards. Calcavecchia attributed his ability to hit the shot to his tremendous clubhead speed, and to the fact that he can curve the ball more than anybody.

There's also the matter of Watson's being a lefty. It's apparently easier to hook a ball in a half-moon shape than to slice it that much. Could Watson have hit the shot if he were a righty?

"It's hard to curve a short iron a whole lot," Calcavecchia said, for starters. "I can hook a wedge or a 9-iron at least twice as much as I can fade it."

A righty, Calcavecchia figures, would have at best been able to get something up near the green, not on it, and that by hitting a low shot under the greens that ran up.

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"There's no way a right-handed player could have come anywhere near hitting the green," Calcavecchia said of the shot that Jack Nicklaus believes is one of the greatest ever in the game.

And there you have, as rendered by Mark Calcavecchia. He is a very good get for this year's Montreal Championship. May he make a few trips to the media centre.

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