Costantino Rocca was in St Andrews Monday to re-create that never-to-be-forgotten 60-foot putt he holed to prompt a play-off with John Daly in the 1995 Open Championship. The idea behind the exercise was to stir even more interest than there already is in the Senior Open Championship, which is this summer to be played over the Old Course for a first time, with the dates 26-29 July.
Very nearly Constantino! Rocca trying to recreate his famous putt in a preview day for the Senior Open Championship at St. Andrews today pic.twitter.com/x4YnA5dILp
— Golf Monthly (@GolfMonthly) April 23, 2018
When Bernhard Langer won last year’s Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl, the field included 34 major champions or senior major champions. This year, David MacLaren, the head of the Staysure Tour (formerly the European Senior Tour), said they expect more. “There will be some legends and not a few surprises,” he promised. The quartet of Nick Faldo and Daly, both of whom have a chance to do the double of winning n Open and Senior Open at St Andrews, Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer are all expected starters.
That Rocca couldn’t hole his 60-footer again Monday did not matter. The mere fact that he was out there with that 23-year-old blade putter of his was enough to have him and many another re-living the cheers from that day of days. “There were 40-50,000 people out there and when I heard their cheers I think to myself, ‘Someone out there loves me,’ ” said the first of the top-notch Italians. “It was the era of such great players as Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros and suddenly I was getting that kind of support. That moment was like I won the Open.”
He also talked Monday about the thoughts which went through his head from the moment he stood on the 18th tee all those years ago. “I said to my caddie, ‘If I put my drive on the green, I make 2.’ His tee shot seemed set to play its part but, after setting off on line, it kicked left from a divot to leave him with a chip over the Valley of Sin. The chip was a bit of a miscue but his belief remained intact. “When I putt,” he said, “I see the ball going in.”
It is a given that Rocca and Daly will be playing together in the opening round of the Senior Open. Daly may have beaten Rocca by four shots in their play-off but Rocca puts a cheerful twist on that result, describing himself as “the most famous runner-up in Open history.” (Jean van de Velde, with his watery disasters of 1999 at Carnoustie, might disagree.)
Rocca had a similarly humorous retort concerning which of his ’95 Open result and his win over Tiger Woods in the 1997 Ryder Cup was the more significant. Here, he suggested that he seemed to get praised in equal measure for both, other than in America. “There, they’re happier to remember me as the man who nearly won the Open rather than the fellow who had the cheek to beat Tiger at Valderrama.”