Calcavecchia on fire on course and with media

Twenty years removed from his British Open triumph, Mark Calcavecchia is in the hunt at Turnberry.

That’s standing-ovation news for golf writers who have enjoyed an endless stream of Calcavecchia quotes over the years. After shooting 69 to get in at 4-under 136, one behind Steve Marino and Tom Watson, the 49-year-old Calcavecchia did not disappoint.

Some of the highlights:

  • On whether younger American players have turned to him for advice: “I would never think I’m the type of guy anbody could learn anything from.”
  • On whether or not he was late and dressed in jeans in 1990 when, as champion, he returned the Claret Jug at a dinner in St. Andrews: “I’ve never been late in my life. And I looked about as nice as I could humanly look, too.”
  • On a second-round shot that speaks volumes for links golf: “I popped up a 3-iron and it came within a foot of getting into (a bunker 280 yards away). I don’t hit too many pop-up 3-irons 280.”
  • On this week’s beer of choice: “I’m working on Saint Mungo. It’s pretty good stuff.”
  • And just how many pints is he allowing himself this week? “Four seems to be a nice round figure. It’s just enough, but it’s not too many.”

    Still searching

    Is two-time defending Open champion Padraig Harrington still trying to find his game or is he on the cusp of making another run at a Claret Jug? It was difficult to tell after his second-round 74.

    In conditions that were better left to windboarding than golfing, the Irishman played fairly solidly, but posted a number five shots higher than his 1-under 69 in optimum scoring conditions in Thursday’s opening round.

    “I hit the ball well enough today,” Harrington said. “I certainly stroked it well, I just have to trust it (his swing) a little bit more on the weekend.”

    Coming into Turnberry, Harrington had struggled. He won the Irish PGA last week, competing in a weaker field opposite the Scottish Open, but prior to that had missed five consecutive cuts on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Most of the poor results for Harrington were directly connected to the tinkering with his swing. That process lasted too long, however, and his wife and caddie asked for an intervention prior to the Players Championship in May.

    Harrington still came to Turnberry seeking swing help, which he received from his longtime instructor, Bob Torrance.

    “I think I’ve turned the corner now, and I’m definitely focused on competing and playing more so than maybe the last couple of months,” Harrington said. “I’m just getting a few things right.”

    Harrington made the cut at 3-over 143 and as the defending champion will still have a chance to three-peat (last achieved by Peter Thomson in 1956 at Royal Liverpool), but will need to climb past roughly 50 players if he is to return the Claret Jug to Ireland.

    “I’m hoping to just to sneak in on the cut line, to get out nice and early tomorrow morning in beautiful sunshine, shoot a good score and then (for) the weather to come in,” Harrington said with a smile. “We can always dream, can’t we?”

    A dog story

    Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, playing in his second Open Championship, is coming off a pretty emotional week. He was leading the Scottish Open by a shot on Sunday, but fell back into a tie for second with a closing 72. But that wasn’t the big news.

    His family dog, Petra, had gone missing. Asked at the Scottish Open whether he’d rather win the tournament or find his dog, it was no contest. He wanted to find the dog, a Shar-Pei he and his wife have had for two years.

    Good news. He was leaving the players’ lounge Wednesday at Turnberry when he got a call. Someone had found Petra wandering on a golf course near his home in Madrid.

    “The dog had been missing nearly a week — six days — and was looking for water,” he said Friday after his second-round 72 left him at 141. “When I talked to my wife, she was so excited, so I was quite happy for her. She’s seven and a half months pregnant, and you know how that can be. So it was fantastic. I felt so happy for her.”

    Vacation time

    His first British Open is over, thanks to rounds of 76-71, but James Driscoll isn’t done with Turnberry. “I’m at the hotel,” Driscoll said, with a nod toward the sprawling building across the street and up the hill from the golf course, “and it’s a seven-night minimum, so I might as well stay.”

    Besides, Driscoll is on a sort of European vacation, headed to next week’s SAS Masters in Sweden.

    “Other players told me how much fun it was and I was lucky enough to get an invite, so why not?” Driscoll said.

    One of his best friends, Will Mackenzie, will also be in the SAS field, having encouraged Driscoll to play.

    Too little, too late

    It took him 35 holes, but Ian Poulter finally made a birdie. Unfortunately, over the course of two days he also made a triple bogey, two doubles, and eight bogeys to shoot 75-79 and miss the cut in a British Open for just the second time in nine tries. “I was playing great golf coming into the week, feeling good, and loving the golf course,” Poulter said. “I could have had a set of spades in my bag this week and I still wouldn’t have found the middle of the greens.”

    Geared up

    For a while, Josh Geary had visions of a British Open weekend. Instead, he’s headed back to the Nationwide Tour.

    Having backed up his opening 70 with a 75, the New Zealander missed the cut at 5 over in his Open debut. But he did see a bright side. “Overall, not disappointed, but I hope there’s more to come,” Geary said.

    More immediate than future Opens is the Nationwide Tour, which Geary is going to commit to chasing for the remainder of 2009. At the two Nationwide stops in his native country earlier this year, Geary finished T-2 and T-4, earned $75,842, and thought he was in good shape for a Tour card. Unfortunately, he discovered that the rules had been changed, that money earned in co-sanctioned events did not count for non-Nationwide Tour members.

    “It’s a shame,” Geary said. “But it can’t be helped.”

    Instead, Geary will try and Monday qualify for upcoming tournaments and, more than likely, plan to participate in the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in the fall.

    Short shots

    Among the bigger names joining Tiger Woods in missing the cut: Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Mike Weir, Anthony Kim, Adam Scott, David Toms, Lucas Glover, Hunter Mahan, Geoff Ogilvy, Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter, as well as such former Open champions as Ben Curtis, Paul Lawrie, David Duval, Todd Hamilton, Mark O’Meara and Greg Norman. … John Senden, who did not get into the field until Tuesday, had these consecutive nines: A four-birdie, back-nine 31 on Thursday (66), and a seven-bogey, front-nine 42 on Friday. He shot 80 and missed the cut.

    Quotable

    Colin Montgomerie, on Sandy Lyle’s concern that by telling reporters he believes Montgomerie cheated at the Indonesian Open four years ago, he might have jeopordized his chance to become a vice-captain to Montgomerie at the 2010 Ryder Cup: “I thought that was very, very funny.”