Calling All Karma
Midway through the final round of last year's Honda Classic, Mark Calcavecchia decided that the quarter and the nickel he was carrying were fresh out of putt-makin' mojo. He swapped them for the three pennies jingling in the pocket of his caddie, Greg Martin, made three straight birdies and presto, he's the defending champion at this week's Honda. "It's silly, but what the heck," Calcavecchia said after his victory. "Maybe it was the pennies."
Silly? Not really. Superstition is the norm on the PGA Tour. Tom Weiskopf is a three-coin guy, and so is Jack Nicklaus, who carries three pennies for good luck. The Golden Bear also refused to change his lucky olive-green pants while winning the '62 U.S. Open and used to hum tunes like Moon River repeatedly, as long as he kept making birdies.
Calcavecchia doesn't bother with the penny ante anymore. "I tried it again, and it didn't work," he says. "I don't do the same thing every day."
Calc's quirks may get 86'd after a 76 and replaced after a 66, but his peers are more loyal to their idiosyncrasies. Justin Leonard always marks his ball with a quarter that was minted in the '60s, which, he hopes, translates to scores in the 60s. Mac O'Grady plays with four black bands wrapped around his putter-one for every major he hasn't won. Jesper Parnevik once feared balls marked with the number 3, lest he three-putt.
"But I had a five-shot lead going into the last hole of a tournament," Parnevik says, "so I played with a 3 just to get rid of the jinx."
Other golfers are notoriously wardrobe wary. Seve Ballesteros wore blue trousers on Sundays when he was in contention, for that's what he wore when he won his first tournament, the '76 Dutch Open. Tiger Woods's final-round finery includes liberal splashes of red, the color of under-par numbers and also the preferred Sunday swatch for Lee Trevino and Curtis Strange.
Better off red
When they're among the leaders on Sunday, Woods, Trevino and Strange believe their fire-engine get-ups help them smoke the field. Skip Kendall has a different policy: zero tolerance. If he wears a shirt once and plays poorly, the garment goes. "I won't even wear the same style," Kendall says.
Most pros eschew any ball with a number higher than 4. Then again, Wayne Levi and Tom Kite like high-numbered balls.