Grady, two shots back, was in no position to take advantage, but Calcavecchia was. The five-iron he hit from the right rough is one of a handful of shots that Open followers store in their memories. "I just stood there watching it," he told reporters. "I said, 'I don't care where it ends up, because that's the best shot I've ever hit.' " With the gallery roaring, Calcavecchia's ball stopped seven feet from the hole.
Why four holes? Is that what Norman was thinking? His bunker shot left him no chance to reach the green. He tried, though, and his shot clipped the bunker's lip, landing short of the green in another bunker in another impossible lie. Norman's final swing, made in front of a stunned crowd and a worldwide television audience, sent his ball sailing over the green and out of bounds toward the clubhouse, where it bounced off the leg of the Troon caddiemaster.
The rules said Norman had to take a stroke penalty and play from his original position in the trap. He chose instead to retain what was left of his dignity. Handing his sand wedge to his caddie, Bruce Edwards, he took an X on the final hole.
That left Calcavecchia needing only a three-putt to beat Grady. Calmed by the prospect, Calcavecchia made the putt for birdie and guaranteed his place in Open lore. Of course, he kept his promise. That evening, he repaired with his claret jug to the upstairs dining room. The champagne flowed, and the waiters drank as much as the champion.
Today a replica of the claret jug sits under a light in the trophy room of Calcavecchia's home in West Palm Beach, Fla. "When you win one of the big ones in golf, you're regarded as a step above," he says. "Professionally, it was my biggest thrill."
The assumption is that a young player's first major will catapult him to even greater heights. Calcavecchia had won two other tournaments in '89 and seemed on the verge of stardom. However, a catastrophic collapse in a singles match at the 1991 Ryder Cup shook his confidence. He has cracked the top 30 on the Tour's money list for the last four years, but rarely has he shown the carefree brilliance that marked his British Open triumph. "It was '89," he says. "It was a long time ago, and everything seemed pretty easy."
Grady, now 39, can't remember when things seemed easy. His career topped out in 1990 when he won the PGA by three shots at the infamous Shoal Creek Country Club in Birmingham, Ala. The following year he dropped to 118th on the U.S. money list and since 1993 has had one top-10 finish on Tour. He will miss next week's return of the Open Championship to Troon—his second straight absence from the tournament that put him on the world stage—and is uncertain if he will play the Tour full time, even though he's still exempt through the year 2000 because of his PGA title.
As for Norman—well, no other player in the '90s has cut such a colorful swath across golf's landscape. His performance in the majors this year, however, has been dismal. He missed the cut in the Masters and the U.S. Open for the first time, and he has been grumpy and cantankerous with galleries and tournament officials. Conventional wisdom says that Norman is still traumatized by the '96 Masters.
Unconventional wisdom has it that Norman has been a different man for eight years—ever since he took that X on the 76th hole at Royal Troon. A fatalist now, he sincerely believes that championships are dispensed by cruel gods named Randomitius and Arbitrarius, aided and abetted by the rules makers at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.