Calc goes from cruise to crumble on tough Sunday

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
The golf gods dealt Mark Calcavecchia a cruel blow Sunday at Broken Sound.
February 12, 2012
Craig Dolch, PGATOUR.COM contributor

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Golf can be cruel. We saw it the last two weekends when Kyle Stanley and Spencer Levin lost big leads during the final rounds on the PGA TOUR.

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Sunday, it was Mark Calcavecchia's turn to get whacked by the golfing gods.

One minute he seemed to be cruising to victory in the Allianz Championship at Broken Sound. He had birdied the par-5 11th hole to take a three-shot lead over Corey Pavin. Calcavecchia was five-under for the round -- which was even more impressive because he had overcome a double bogey on the second hole -- and appeared to be a cinch to win his second Champions Tour title.

"I felt pretty good, I'll tell you that," Calcavecchia said.

But then he had a three-putt bogey at the 12th hole, which was a sign of things to come. A bad drive led to another bogey at 13. Suddenly, Calcavecchia's lead was gone.

Soon, his swing and putting touch were, too. At the difficult par-4 15th, his drive landed in a fairway bunker. He hit a 9-iron pure -- too pure, it turned out. When the ball sailed over the green into the water, Calcavecchia fell out of the lead and into that zone where a golfer can seemingly do nothing right.

He three-putted the next two holes, then watched his second shot at the par-5 18th bounce off a hospitality tent into a water hazard near the 10th tee. It took more than 10 minutes for Calcavecchia to get a ruling before he made another bogey and exited stage left.

The same guy who birdied seven of his first 11 holes finished with six bogeys on his final seven. With nine-hole scores of 32 and 41, he went from atop the leaderboard to a seventh-place tie, four shots out of the playoff that Corey Pavin eventually won over Peter Senior.

Afterward, Calcavecchia tried to make sense of what had just transpired.

"I three putted 12," he said. "Bad.

"Got a bad break at 13. Still fine.

"Hit it over the green on 15. Pretty much did me in."

A short and not-so-sweet lowdown.

Calcavecchia admitted Saturday he had been "baffled" by Broken Sound's greens. Turns out his lack of confidence proved to be a harbinger of things to come. If he had one shot over, it would have been his 25-foot birdie try on No. 13 he ran 4 feet past the hole.

"Thought it was uphill," he said of his first putt. "I had no idea it was that fast. Normally, when you blow it 4 feet by, you know it when you hit it. I had no idea. I hit a horrible next putt."

Any pro golfer who has played long enough will have a meltdown. Such is the nature of the game. But that doesn't make it any easier to experience or watch.

"He's such a good player," said Senior. "He had it on the string for the first 11 holes. It happens to all of us, and it's going to happen again."

"I felt bad for him," Pavin said. "We've all done it. I'm sure he'll learn from it and hopefully won't do it next time."

It didn't help Calcavecchia that while he was struggling to keep his game together, he watched Pavin make one of the great all-time par saves on the par-3 14th when both players were tied for the lead. Pavin's ball ran through the green, stopping next to a tree root in a little depression. Pavin had no choice but to turn his 8-iron around and hit a left-handed shot that, somehow, rolled to 5 feet for a vital par save.

Calcavecchia did what any other pro would do -- he applauded Pavin's incredible shot.

"That was the highlight of the day, that's for sure," Calcavecchia said. "I assumed he was trying to get it up the hill so he would have a better chance of getting it up and down for bogey. If you are down there off an Astroturf mat, you're going to get 1 in 20 inside that, let alone left-handed when the ball is next to a stump in a hole. It was a one-in-a-million shot, but he pulled it off."

Calcavecchia paused.

"Of course, it was one-in-a-million I'm going to bogey six of the last seven. That's the way it goes."

In this cruel, cruel game.