Calcavecchia aims to bury demons of Kiawah Island

IT WAS just a round of golf. Not life or death, not world-changing, not important in the grand scheme of things.

But nobody could say that to Mark Calcavecchia at the time and 11 years on he can still tell you every grizzly detail of it.

So can Colin Montgomerie, the man who had the closest view of what sport and playing for your country can do to an individual.

Calcavecchia finally gets the chance at The Belfry in just over two weeks to play his first Ryder Cup shots since arguably the most dramatic match in the whole history of the competition. Certainly the most amazing.

The American had won the Open championship in a play-off two years earlier and at Troon had proved he could handle a stressful situation.

But Kiawah Island in 1991 was different. At five up with nine to play nobody was taking any special notice of Calcavecchia. It looked a certain point in the bag for the Americans.

He takes up the horror story. ''I think I shot five under on the front, but then Monty drained his bunker shot on 10, then birdied 11 as well and I'm three up.

''I won 14 he triple-bogeyed so I'm four with four. But it was a terrible wind for me, howling left to right, and on 15 I hit one about 100 yards right into the ocean.

''I made about an eight. It was ugly. Then on 16 I was just over the green, in sand and in a footprint, a buried lie where everybody walks Kiawah is all sand dunes and crap. So I lose that.

''And then the famous two-iron on 17 after Monty already flared one in the water.''

Calcavecchia then hit the worst shot of his life into the lake.

''I just got out so far ahead of it I smothered it. I was trying to hit it low, hard and left, but I just hit a diver.

''We both went to the drop zone and hit another ball on the green. I putted up to two feet and had that for the win and yanked it, so now I was one up with one to go.

''On 18 Ray Floyd (having just lost to Nick Faldo) was trying to pump me up. But I hit my iron to a place I could not get up and down from. And that was that a half.''

When the match finished and Calcavecchia did not know whether he would cost his team the whole match they were only the third singles of the 12 he was inconsolable.

With Payne Stewart keeping a watchful eye on him he walked to the ocean and was overcome with the emotion of what he had just been through.

For a while afterwards Calcavecchia did not know if he ever wanted to be part of a Ryder Cup again.

And nor did Montgomerie, who had witnessed something quite extraordinary and was affected by it too.

''I'd finished double bogey, par, double bogey, par and won them all. I was shattered totally,'' remembers the Scot.

''It was my first Ryder Cup and I didn't know what the hell was going on. I could have joined him on the beach. I was feeling awful.

''I was not sure I wanted another cap. The pressure was incredible."

Calcavecchia's healing process began as soon as he got home.

''I got a ton of letters afterwards and honestly not one bad thing from anybody. And at the next tournament not one single player gave me some sort of back-hander like 'nice finish'. Everybody just said 'great playing'."

On making the team again last year after so long, Calcavecchia said: ''I've thought about and have been thinking about it for 10 years.

''Eventually I wanted to get on another team and enjoy myself for a change.

"I'm definitely going to have my priorities straight this time."

''It's not life or death. It's golf and I have 11 team-mates."

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