As soon as he stepped onto the Swilcan Bridge, Mark Calcavecchia’s eyes started to glisten.
Thirty-five years on from his first Open and 33 years since he became Champion Golfer of the Year, the larger-than-life American bid farewell to golf’s original major on perhaps the most famous hole in the world.
That Calcavecchia went round in 82 shots is irrelevant, as is his final score of 21-over-par. What mattered was making it back to one last Open, especially at the home of golf, for one last hurrah in the championship he cherishes above all others.
Calcavecchia was given the honour of the opening tee shot on Friday morning and hooked it left towards the Swilcan Burn. He recovered beautifully with a 9-iron that stopped dead in its tracks – just as he would do when he approached the most famous bridge in golf almost four hours later.
“I am not sure what I was expecting but I felt it, I felt the emotions,” he said.
“I got mildly choked up but the fans have been great for the two days, they were cheering and pulling for me. They were aware this is my last, so that was pretty cool. It meant a lot.
“I am an emotional person. I shed a tear at sad movies or if there is something emotional going on. I am not like Steve Stricker but I get a little choked up sometimes.”
Nothing can top Calcavecchia's win at The 118th Open, where he memorably beat Greg Norman and Wayne Grady in a play-off.
At Royal Troon, he finished with a birdie. At St Andrews, it was a bogey but it did not matter – not to the spectators in the stands, his wife Brenda on the bag or his children Eric and Britney cheering from outside the R&A Clubhouse.
“My son and daughter and my son-in-law are here, and they have not been here before so they are having a great time. Forget about my golf, it would not have mattered if I shot a pair of 75s or 85s, which I nearly did, but it was about playing one more here at the home of golf, which is really cool,” he said.
“It is more special because it is here, the home of golf. If I was healthy last year, I would not have minded, I would have played, but when I got the email from Martin Slumbers to say the committee has unanimously agreed to play my last here at St Andrews, it was a great night. That was very special.
“I have been looking forward to it for a while and unfortunately my knees are bad, both of them, and knee surgery is looming. My goal was to make the cut, I thought I could, but I got off to a bad start and after that I was just trying to make pars basically.
“It is tough out there, there are some hole locations I have never seen before here. They are tough. The weather is perfect now, it’s softer.”
“I set the alarm for 5am but was up at 3.35. I thought there was no point going back to bed, I am an early riser anyway. I was a little stiff on that first shot but I thought I could get it on the fairway somewhere, I pulled it a bit but then hit a beautiful nine-iron. The putting was brutal all week.”