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Calcavecchia drinks it all in

TURNBERRY, Scotland – Past champions gather at St. Andrews every time the British Open returns to the home of golf. Just his luck, the first time Mark Calcavecchia was invited to the party, he was holding the claret jug.

And it wasn’t quite empty.

He had been celebrating one last time his 1989 playoff victory at Royal Troon when it was time for the dinner, and Calcavecchia was still not up to speed on British colloquialisms.

“We were drinking champagne out of the jug,” he said Friday. “There was something on the invite that said 7:30 for 8:00 (With such an invitation a guest is expected to arrive 15-20 minutes late, but, but before 8), and I had no idea what that meant. Time kind of went by and I don’t think I rinsed the jug real well. I think there was still some champagne swishing around in there when I brought it back.”

Calcavecchia looks forward to the dinner next year at St. Andrews.

Based on the way he has played the opening two rounds at Turnberry, he might just have the claret jug with him again.

Around the toughest stretch, with shots into a chilly wind and over cliffs along the Firth of Clyde, Calcavecchia came up with enough birdies to carry him to a 1-under-par 69 that left him one shot out of the lead.

At 49 and with a body that is breaking down, he isn’t sure he can win anywhere until he gets to the Champions Tour next year. Links golf is different, though, and Calcavecchia didn’t need to see 59-year-old Tom Watson atop the leaderboard to know that.

“I’m swinging well enough, and I’m driving it great,” Calcavecchia said. “I seem to be hitting a lot of fairways.”

There is one element that Calcavecchia has had on his side.

“I’m getting some good bounces, getting lucky on occasion,” he said, “which always helps.”

Turnberry turns nasty starting at the par-3 fourth, a stretch of holes that run into a wind rarely felt in these parts, coming off the land and slightly from the north. That’s where everyone was dropping shots.

Calcavecchia played them in 1 under.

The key was somehow reaching the 10th green and holing a 40-foot birdie putt, a good sign that he could post a good score. With the wind in his favor, he poured it on. Calcavecchia hit a 7-iron to 2 feet on the 12th, then a 6-iron on the 14th that hopped onto the green and caught part of the lip before settling a few feet away.

“I just wanted to stay away from big numbers, which a lot of guys were making out there – doubles and triples and quads and whatever,” he said. “A few bogeys here and there weren’t going to kill you.”

The surprise is the timing of Calcavecchia seeing his name on the leaderboard. After good weeks at Pebble Beach and Riviera, he has gone into a funk.

“This is about the second time this year I didn’t struggle to make the cut, so I’m just happy with that,” he said. “I’m usually choking so bad coming down the last few holes on Friday because I want to play the weekend.”