The glorious weirdness that is the Champions Tour starts a new chapter this weekend, as Mark Calcavecchia makes his Champions debut at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open in New York. In no other sport are the rookies the de facto favorites, but that's part of the strangeness that is the Champions Tour.
Originally conceived as a way to give oldsters one more victory lap around the country, the Champions Tour is now Christmastime for middle-aged pros, a way to step up and play 54 holes for some solid bank without having to worry about those bombing youngsters and their rock-n-roll music. As golfers have remained competitive later and later in life — see: Kenny Perry at the 2009 Masters — the Champions is all of a sudden getting a whole lot more competitive as more recognizable names still in the late prime of their career cross that fabled bridge.
Fred Couples has dominated the Champions Tour, and C-Day is within sight for Perry and Vijay Singh. Now, however, it's Calcavecchia's time. And to hear Calc talk, the Champions Tour isn't just a new opportunity, it's a chance to turn back the competitive clock and get back in touch with why he played golf in the first place:
"Going into any tournament, my goal was to make the cut," Calcavecchia said at a pre-tourney press conference. "I remember back in my so-called heyday that was never really an issue. It was just how high up I was going to finish, and how low I was going to shoot. Obviously, as time goes on, those things change and just battling that cut line every single Friday was a nightmare. When I made it, it was almost like I was out of gas. It was like it was out of the question to have a good weekend. So I mastered the tie for 55th or whatever it was, and that's no good."
Question is, how suited is Calc's game for the Champions Tour? He's said his game is average, but his putting has been problematic: "For some reason my ability to score just became painfully average in every statistic. Over the last year and a half, you look at all my stats, and I'm just right in the middle of everything — driving accuracy, greens. My putting has been bad. I'm down at the bottom of that. But tee to green I'm still fine."
That could be troublesome — putting is one of the things the oldsters can still do fairly well — but expect Calc to run up some low numbers and some big checks in the coming weeks. And it all starts Friday.