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2010 Open Championship
Champions Tour rookie Mark Calcavecchia has completed 36 holes in 7 under par at Old Course. (Getty Images)

Fine play healing lots of aches for Calcavecchia

Mark Calcavecchia says he has been "feeling ancient and royal" for a long time now. But after a solid 67 Friday at St. Andrews, the new 50 year old is feeling frisky about his game.

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.com correspondent

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- He's pretty much falling apart.

Arthritis in the knuckle of his right ring finger. Pain in his heel. Right wrist that doesn't cooperate with jump shots, let alone layouts. Or too much practice. Discs under Band-Aids to help ease the pains. A thicker grip on his putter to ease the tension in his hands. And the aches.

In general, Mark Calcavecchia chuckles, it just all goes with getting old. As in 50. Or in his case ... well, he's had creaks and joint crumbles for a while.

Does he feel Royal and Ancient?

"I've been feeling ancient and royal for a long time," he said, drawing a laugh.

Calc's the baby of the Champions Tour these days. At least until J.L. Lewis turns 50 on Sunday. And the two chances he's had to play and hang out with those guys?

"It was kind of interesting," said Calc, who is low senior on the board after Tom Lehman shot 68 and is at 139. "Bob Tway had a kink in his shoulder, (Craig Stadler) Stads has got no left hip left, and everybody is falling apart.

"I really do feel outstanding compared to a lot of those guys."

He's playing like it, too. St. Andrews has never been too kind to the 1989 Open champ -- he won a playoff over Greg Norman and Wayne Grady at Troon -- but things are changing.

Calc was first off the tee Friday morning and first in with -- at this point -- the day's low round of 67. And that could have been a 66 had he not missed an 8-foot birdie at the 17th. Still, Calc finished with a birdie, then chatted away on several networks before huddling with reporters.

"I haven't done anything spectacular here for sure, but I love the tournament," he said. "It's not the course's fault that I didn't play good in those other years, I just didn't play well. But you know, I've been playing decent really the last month or so, and it's carrying over."

One reason? The thicker SuperStroke grip on his putter. It's helped him finish T6 at his first Champions event (Dick's Sporting Goods Open) and T16 at his second (Montreal Championship).

"Putting to me, when I'm putting well on my short ones, like if I'm not missing three footers every other hole, I'm happy," he said. "That means I'm putting good.

"Nobody makes a bunch of 20 footers all the time, and then you just throw in a couple of 20 footers every now and then, and you feel like you're putting good. That's what I've been doing the last months is I've been putting my short ones really well. The fatter grip takes a little bit of tension out of my hands and my stroke and that's been the big difference. "

Another? These Golf Chips -- for pain management and stamina -- that are the rage on the Champions Tour. You have to Band-Aid them up, but ... Well, Ken Green introduced Calc to them and he's a fan. Peeled the Band-Aid one off his wrist as he spoke. "I don't know what they are, but they work," he said.

And there's his caddy. Wife Brenda is on the bag here and at next week's Senior British Open Championship at Carnoustie.

"We have fun together doing it most of the time," Calc said. "The times we don't, it's entirely my fault. If things are going bad and I start getting bitchy, and there's not much she can do to slow me down once I kind of get over the edge. But for the most part we always have a good time."

And, yes, she will get on him.

"She'll tell me to just forget it, start over, just start over, calm down," he said. "Don't screw this up. Calm down. Just relax, it's okay."

So far, so good. Calc's sent his first approach of the tournament spinning back into the burn at the first hole Thursday and now he's on pace for, perhaps, his best Open finish since a T-11 at Troon in 2004. He was up at 4:30 a.m. Friday morning watching the weather. He was first off at 6:30.

"My friends were out here, our six friends that are here," said Calc, who prefers playing early. "There was about 20 people on the first hole. That was about it."

And that putt at 17? No problem. He hit a great drive and a 7-iron to about 8 feet.

"Actually of all the putts I've had this week, that was probably the fastest one with the most break, because most of these putts when you have inside 10 feet, it's really not outside of the hole, and this one broke about six inches left to right and actually had a little speed to it, and I just decelerated," he said. "I was aimed so far left, I just kind of eased it, and it missed right. Really, that was the only bad putt that I hit all day.

"... It doesn't matter what the wind is doing or what you're shooting. If you make a 4 there, you can never be upset with that."

Calc is taking it easy this week. He and Brenda stopped by the Dunvegan Hotel, owned by an American and just around the corner from the course, for a few pints Thursday afternoon on the way to an early dinner. He knows his limits, and yes, a large paycheck this week would be nice.

"Well, we just built a mansion with a two-lane bowling alley in Jupiter, Florida, so there's plenty of ways to spend it," Calc said of a potentially great payday. "It'll take me the rest of my life to pay for it."

And plenty of Champions events in his future. As for this one? He's taking it as it comes. No thinking ahead.

"You know, it's confidence," he said of playing well the past two weeks. "Obviously you see a guy like Tom Watson last year almost winning at 60, and you know, because he was playing well and he had confidence.

"It doesn't really matter how old you are if you're feeling good about what you're doing. I think old guys can hang with the young guys."

Even if they feel like they're falling apart.
 

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