Doubting champion shocks even himself

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- There may be bigger names on the Bell Canadian Open Trophy, legendary names, names that roll off the tongue.

But not one of them is more humbled, more flattered, more thrilled and more stunned than Mark Calcavecchia.

"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 an emotional Calcavecchia, who led or shared the lead at the end of all four days. "I have my moments when I'm pretty good, but I also have a lot of self-doubt and a lot of demons that float around inside my head."

Calcavecchia, 45, and four years removed from his previous PGA Tour victory, became the oldest man to win Canada's national open yesterday, his weekend's work a study in veteran savvy and control, a fact that utterly shocked him.

"I can honestly say I never thought I'd win a tournament by using my head," he said. "I've always been an emotional player. I'm an emotional guy. I watched a replay of Titanic the other day and I was bawling at the end of the movie. That's just my nature."

More than that, Calcavecchia can take self-loathing of his golf game to places that would make him prime material for some leading psychological journal.

"Last year in Vegas, I willed a back spasm on myself because I hated myself so bad," he said. "Sure enough, 10 minutes after I got done playing, in the parking lot I went down right to the ground. Willed a back spasm on myself. That's not easy to do. I hated myself."

As a tour veteran who remembers the Canadian Open from a different time when the field were as good as any on the PGA Tour, Calcavecchia has an appreciation of the heritage that goes with the title.

During his interview session, he snatched up the trophy and started looking at some of the names engraved on it. Even in the moment of appreciation for the tournament's heritage he couldn't stifle his own twisted sense of humour.

"All the great champions who've won this thing and I've got my name next to Ken Green. Pretty good company right there. All right, Ken and Arnie. Sam Snead, oh yeah, this is sweet."

The winning score of five-under-par is testament to the demanding course setup at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club.

Even though Calcavecchia began the weekend at eight-under and actually lost three shots to par, he wasn't offering any apologies for his Saturday round of 72 or his round yesterday of 71.

"A golf course like this you can play one great round, maybe two, but you're sure as hell not going to beat it four days in a row," he said.

"Somebody's gonna have to find out the last time a guy won a tournament making one birdie on the weekend. That may have never happened before in the history of golf, by the way.

"I guessed five to seven under (would win) at the start of the week and that was it. Thank God, we ran out of holes."

Under pressure from a handful of players trying to catch him down the stretch, Calcavecchia did whatever it took to make par, finishing his round with eight of them in a row.

When he came to the 18th tee, he knew he needed nothing more than a simple par to win it but the waiting was killing him.

Then, after splitting the fairway, he had another anxious wait before delivering the coup de gras, a perfect 6-iron that settled about six feet from the hole.

"My two best swings," he said. "Was it destiny? I've blown tournaments before on the 18th hole with bad drives. I thought of none of that. I concentrated and hit it hard.

"My 6-iron shot ... the wind dropped. It was perfect timing. I hit it high and straight and I couldn't have dropped it in a better spot."

And the putt?

"It never even crossed my mind to try to make it. How bad is that? First time I shook on a putt all week and I half-yipped it.

"I was glad I got it up to six inches."

And then it was over and Canada had a new 40-something head case as its champion. He'll do just fine.


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