Mark Calcavecchia Mark Calcavecchia back to defend title at PODS Championship at Innisbrook's Copperhead

Perhaps no one knows better than PODS Championship defending champ Mark Calcavecchia just how fickle good fortune can be in the game of golf.

Last year, Calcavecchia missed a seven-foot putt on the final hole to leave the door open to challengers. However, Heath Slocum missed a four-foot putt that would've forced a playoff, allowing Calcavecchia to win his 13th career PGA Tour title.

"No one has ever missed a putt to let me win a tournament," Calcavecchia told reporters following the 2007 win. "In fact, any time anyone has ever needed to make a putt against me, they usually make it."

Last Sunday, Calcavecchia was on the other end of the give-and-take scenario. Tied with eventual champion Ernie Els at the Honda Classic, Calcavecchia hit what looked to be a decent bunker shot on the par-3 15th hole at PGA National's Champion Course, but his ball just kept rolling and rolling — right off the green — before coming to rest on a rocky ledge.

Calcavecchia wound up taking a double bogey on the hole and slipped into a tie for fourth place.

"Didn't go my way," Calcavecchia said. "Wasn't my time."

The 47-year-old Nebraska native will get another opportunity to change his fortune this week in the PODS Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club's Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Fla. A solid field is set to take part in Thursday's opening round as 21 of the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings are scheduled to start, including five of the top 10.

Els, who is coming off his first victory on the PGA Tour since 2004 ,heads the list of top players. Retief Goosen, Geoff Ogilvy, Steve Stricker, David Toms, Paul Casey, Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Stuart Appleby and Charles Howell III are also scheduled to play in the tournament, which includes a purse of $5.3 million.

Whoever wins this year's event most likely won't take a more interesting path than Calcavecchia took to his 2007 victory. He opened with a 75.

When Calcavecchia rallied back to win, it marked the highest opening-round score by a winner on the PGA Tour in 10 years, or since Jeff Sluman at the 1997 Tucson Open. Since the Tour began keeping such statistics in 1970, 76 remains the highest opening-round score that eventually led to victory. The feat has been accomplished five times, with Mike Sullivan doing it last at the 1989 Shell Houston Open.

"The first day I hit the first 16 greens in a row and was even and then finished triple-bogey, bogey — 36 putts or something — and that's when I had the bags packed," Calcavecchia said. "But I was hitting it well. I knew I was hitting it good."

After switching putters, Calcavecchia said he then proceeded to make almost every putt he looked at and wound up winning the 2007 PODS Championship.

"It's a good achievement," Calcavecchia said. "Winning a tournament on the PGA Tour is a very hard thing to do for most mortals and being an older guy — not exactly in the greatest shape — it's good to win and nice to know we can still do it."

PODS Championship

SCHEDULE: Thursday-Sunday.
SITE: Palm Harbor, Fla.
COURSE: Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, Copperhead Course (7,340 yards, par 71).
PURSE: $5.3 million (winner's share: $954,000).
FEDEXCUP POINTS: 25,000 (winner's share: 4,500).
TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m., 8:30-11:30 p.m. EST) and NBC (Saturday, 3-6 p.m. EST; Sunday, 3-6:30 p.m. EST).

March 6, 2008

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