Wednesday, 9 July 2014

1989 Open Championship: As it happened

This week I am attempting to pay a tribute to the excellent Guardian Open Championship live blogs that run every year. I've turned back time and revisited the first ever four-hole play-off at the Open Championship in 1989, and had a stab at writing a "as it happened" piece.

Please note: the times below are a rough approximation of the actual timetable of events, so please don't be too harsh on me if I am a couple of minutes out here or there.

6.30pm BST Play-off preamble

So where's your money then? You can make a case for and against each of these players. Greg Norman has at least won a major, and his startling course record 64 at Royal Troon today means he may have the Big Mo with him, but we all know he has had his fair share of play-off heartbreaks before (Zoeller 1984 and Mize 1987). Wayne Grady has been at the head of the leaderboard since Friday, although his finish of two bogeys in the final five holes means that he has nervously limped into this shootout. And Calcavecchia has been in fine form in America this season, birdied 16 and 18 to get into this play-off, but can he handle the pressure of trying to win his first major? In short, I haven't got a clue.

The players are lining up for photos. It's a case of USA v Australia, and if this summer is anything to go by then Calcavecchia has his work cut out. Australia's cricketers are having a lovely time in England (2-0 up with three Tests to play), Neighbours, Home and Away, and Prisoner: Cell Block H are somehow seen as cool (OK, maybe not the last one), and Kylie, Jason, and even Stefan Dennis are flooding our charts with songs that are unfathomably popular. I must be getting old.

Mind you, American sport has had a good day today, with Greg LeMond winning his second Tour de France today by just eight seconds. Can Calcavecchia make it a memorable Sunday for our American friends?

Just to explain this new format again - well, I say it is new, but it has been in place since 1985, it's just that this is the first time that we will have seen the four-hole play-off at The Open. The players will play holes 1, 2, 17 and 18, and if they still can't be separated then Henry Kelly will ask them a tie-break question we will be into sudden death. Personally I prefer this system. The US Masters sudden death style seems too quick, and the old 18-hole affair meant we would have all had to come back again tomorrow. This is a nice balance if you ask me.

6.35pm BST

Here we go then, on the par four first hole. Calcavecchia steps up first and finds the left of the fairway. Grady follows suit, but gets a bad bounce which leaves his ball sitting in the light rough. It will be interesting to see how his ball lies when he plays his second.

Norman gets his conventional wood out - none of this newfangled metal nonsense for the Great White Shark - and spanks a drive miles down the right side of the fairway. Norman should have the easiest shot in to the pin, which is on the left side of the green. Not that anything is easy in these circumstances, obviously.

6.38pm BST

Grady's ball isn't sitting too badly - I've certainly been in worse lies at my local municipal - and he plays a fine pitch just short of the green, which runs about 20-feet past the hole. That was a little unlucky for Grady, as I'm not sure he could have played that much better. Grady then takes a long drag on a cigarette. I don't blame him, as I'm nervous enough and I don't even have to play four holes in front of millions of golf fans worldwide.

Norman flicks a pitch and run that, like Grady's, runs on a little. Fortunately for Norman, he is able to control his approach a little more, and now has an eight-foot chance for birdie.

Calcavecchia goes for a more lofted effort than Norman, but his ball lands woefully short of the pin, just on the front of the green. Understandable I guess, after the American had seen just how far the previous two shots had moved past the pin, yet Calcavecchia will not be too happy with his response. Advantage Norman.

6.42pm BST

The galleries have surrounded the first green, with those sitting at the back of the grandstand of the 18th also able to get a look at the action. Calcavecchia is first to putt, leaving his effort short by a few feet. Grady's attempt looks good for a while, before it runs out of pace. He taps in for a par though.

Norman strikes a confident putt, which tracks beautifully and drops in on the left-side of the hole. If he had hit that any softer then it would have missed on the low side. Calcavecchia makes no mistake with his tricky par putt, so with three holes to go Greg Norman leads the Open Championship.

Norman -1
Calcavecchia E
Grady E

6.44pm BST

The two bunkers sitting either side of the fairway within driving distance are a big danger for the players here. Norman doesn't bother himself with such concerns though, creaming a drive past the traps and ending in position A1 on the fairway. Calcavecchia and Grady hit good drives, not as long or impressive as Norman's, but size isn't everything. They end up within a yard of each other, and have a chance to try and pressure the current tournament leader by peppering the flag with their approach shots (that's the plan anyway).

6.46pm BST

Grady's pitch from about 100 yards is on a perfect line, but like Calcavecchia's on the first it ends a significant distance short of the pin. Grady shakes his head as he walks away. Calcavecchia goes the other way, flying over the pin before a tiny bit of check stops his ball just a foot off the green. Norman ends up 15-feet short of the flag, a solid shot, but from where he was he probably will be slightly disappointed with that. Still, he's a shot in front and closest to the pin on the second, so he may be delighted, for all that I know.

6.47pm BST

Rumour has it that Calcavecchia did not even know the format of this play-off and started making his way to hole 15 for sudden-death. ABC Sports are also stating that Calcavecchia didn't have enough balls in his bag and Fred Couples pushed him towards Tom Watson, who uses the same type. That's a marvellous story if it is true. Imagine standing on the first tee without a golf ball in a play-off for the Open? Now that's what I would call embarrassing.

6.48pm BST

Grady's putt is neither high or hard enough, but he had made a nerveless par again.

And now a move from Calcavecchia. His right to left putt from roughly 35-feet is struck confidently, and as soon as it leaves the club head it looks useful. And so it is, running towards the hole and dropping in on the right, as Calcavecchia clenches his fist and acknowledges the galleries.

Norman must have thought he would have a chance of a two-shot lead, yet if he was put out by this then he doesn't let it show. He did have to back off his putt originally, someone disturbing him and then getting a filthy look, yet he composed himself once more and rammed the 15-foot putt home. Looking at that again, I reckon that may have gone a good few feet past had it not hit the hole. But it did, and Norman is now ten-under-par for the twenty holes he has played today. None too shabby.

Norman -2
Calcavecchia -1
Grady E

6.50pm BST

Bad news department: It looks as if anyone about to settle down to watch One Man and His Dog may be in for a massive letdown. We're already five minutes overdue for the Sunday evening favourite, and with two holes to go, plus the potential of a few more, I think OMAHD is going to be a casualty of the TV schedules.

6.51pm BST

Meanwhile, back at the golf, Norman crunches a 4-iron to the par three 17th which lands to the left of the flag and runs through the back of the green. He shouldn't have too many problems from there. Calcavecchia's 3-iron is also a bit on the long side, but it stays on the left side of the green, albeit over thirty-feet from the hole.

After those shots, Grady realistically needs a birdie now to stay in this play-off, but he chooses the most inopportune moment to play an awful tee shot, leaking the ball short and to the right, and ending up in a bunker. Surely that is the end of the Grady challenge.

6.54pm BST

Grady splashes out superbly, at one point the ball giving the impression (to me anyway) that it might find its way to the hole. Alas it runs past on the left, and gives Grady a chance of par. Perhaps his hopes are not totally over just yet, although he may well soon be sitting down to eat a meal at the last chance saloon.

Calcavecchia plays next, highlighting just how far he is from the hole in comparison to Norman. This is definitely three-putt territory, but Calcavecchia hits a brilliant putt, his ball just missing on the right and stopping barely an inch from the cup. He duly taps in for his par and Calcavecchia's broad grin shows just how relieved he is to get down in two from there.

6.56pm BST

Oh dear. Is this a decisive moment in the play-off? Norman's chip looks good, in fact it clips the left side of the hole, but the only problem is that it is travelling at a fair old pace. Even with the flick on the hole, Norman's ball has rolled on eight-feet, and at a time like this you really don't want to be leaving yourself with putts of this nature. Was that a bad lie for Norman, or just a bad shot brought on by pressure?

6.58pm BST

Norman hits his putt firmly, but it breaks away to the right and stays up. That looked like a misread to me, though all that matters is that Norman has thrown a shot away and is now level with Calcavecchia.

Which flamin' galah said Grady was out of this then? If he makes his par putt then he will only be a shot behind playing the last. Unfortunately Grady's putt lips out on the left, and that surely is that for his chances. A bogey for Grady leaves him requiring a birdie and a bogey from the others. It could happen, but then so could a return to our screens for Crossroads.

Norman -1
Calcavecchia -1
Grady +1

7.01pm BST

452 yards of grass and sand stand between one of these players and a place in the Open history books. I'm not sure I could even clear the rough between the tee and fairway, so it is probably a good job that I'm not out there.

Calcavecchia's drive looks a little shaky (quelle surprise) and flies off to the right. It strikes someone who seems extremely surprised that their walk has been interrupted by a selfish golfer, and the ball settles down in the light rough. Calcavecchia may have been a little lucky there. He now has a much longer second shot than he would have liked, yet where his ball would have ended up without the intervention of Mr Oblivious we will never know.

Disaster for Norman! He actually hits a great shot, but if anything he hit it too well, as the ball flies through the air, lands on the fairway only for it to trickle into a bunker. I didn't even think that bunker was reachable from the tee, but a combination of adrenaline and the hard fairway has done for Norman there. It doesn't look like he can reach the green from that position, so Calcavecchia has a slight edge.

A Grady birdie could put him back in contention here after all, and his drive is perfect. In fact Grady's ball is not that far from the bunker his compatriot found, and that from someone not renowned for being a big hitter.

7.06pm BST

Oh my! Oh my! Mark Calcavecchia may well have hit a shot that has just won him the Open Championship. From over 200 yards out, the American nips a shot off the trampled down rough and knocks it to four-feet. That will go down as one of the greatest ever shots in this famous old tournament, and if Calcavecchia does win then he deserves to after that. A case of lightning striking twice, after his shot earlier on today to a similar distance which enabled Calcavecchia to get into a play-off.

Grady only needs to sink his second shot from 170 yards to keep his dream alive, and incredibly he was not a million miles away. As soon as he strikes his approach, some clowns scream "Get in the hole" - something that seems to be creeping into the sport - and Coco and his mates almost have their wish granted. A stunning effort by Grady.

7.08pm BST

A penny for Norman's thoughts as he settles on his haunches behind that blasted bunker. He has about 140 yards to go to the green, yet realistically he will need a miracle to avoid the lip on the bunker and reach the green. But after Calcavecchia's shot does he have any other choice? His two options appear to be 1) Go for it and hope for the best or 2) Lay up, get a par, and hope Calcavecchia misses.

Now this is incredible. After much deliberation, Norman is about to play the shot but has to back away as the dulcet tones of Peter Alliss are audible across the course. I have no idea what happened there. The galleries laugh, and even Norman sees some humour in the moment, turning to his caddie and saying "He's telling me how to play the shot".

Norman eventually returns and the lack of loft on his club indicates that laying up is not for him. Fortune does not favour the brave though, as inevitably Norman's ball catches the lip and apologetically limps into another trap approximately 60 yards short of the green. This jig is almost up. Norman now needs a Bob Tway moment, or something even more dramatic than Michael Thomas' Anfield goal.

7.10pm BST

The galleries swarm forward as the players make their way to the green. Unsurprisingly Norman wears a resigned look, and this is reflected in his next shot, a thinned effort through the green that flies out of bounds. A sad end to a day that started so well for the Australian, as more play-off heartbreak looms. Grady completes the Aussie nightmare, lipping out on the right as he cards his fourth four of the play-off.

MARK CALCAVECCHIA WINS THE OPEN! He had three putts for the Claret Jug, but only needed one, his second birdie of the day on 18 completing a fantastic day for both Calcavecchia and America, who have their first Open champion since Tom Watson in 1983. On sinking the putt, Calcavecchia raises his arms to the sky before shaking hands with the two Aussies. He was one Sandy Lyle bunker shot away from winning the Masters last year, so maybe we shouldn't be so surprised at Calcavecchia's triumph after all.

Calcavecchia -2
Grady +1
Norman x (didn't complete the 18th)

7.30pm BST


Before Calcavecchia collects the trophy he does in fact reveal that he had to borrow six balls off of Tom Watson. News is also circulating that Calcavecchia would have in fact gone home last night had his expectant wife Sheryl gone into labour. Greg Norman may now be wishing that Mrs Calcavecchia's waters had not been so stubborn.

A naturally delighted Calcavecchia kisses the trophy and few can deny that he deserved it. OK, Australians and anyone who dislikes Americans could maybe argue this point, but logically we have arrived at our worthy winner. Norman will rue another missed opportunity, but surely he will be back to contest more majors, and you wouldn't put it past Grady to learn from this experience and come again in the future.

As for Calcavecchia, he now has a major under his belt, and this gives American golf a boost ahead of September's Ryder Cup, which looks like being too close to call. For us Europeans, I just hope that Calcavecchia does not find the Belfry as much to his liking as he has done Royal Troon. Bye for now.

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