Calcavecchia flying the flag for the golden oldies

The 50-year-old continued the good show after Watson last year with a superb seven-under tally despite gloomy conditions.

.ST ANDREWS // After Greg Norman came close in 2008 and Tom Watson almost pulled off a shocking victory a year later, Mark Calcavecchia kept up the tradition for the oldsters at the British Open yesterday. The 50-year-old American, who claimed his only major victory on the Scottish links of Troon in 1989, struck the first shot of the second round at 6.30am and quickly rubbed the sleep from his eyes in rapidly changing weather conditions.

After rain and light winds had greeted the early starters, the gloom eventually gave way to blue skies and bright sunshine and Calcavecchia continued to lift the mood by plotting his way to a 67 for a seven-under tally of 137. The prospect of climbing out of bed as the sun is rising may trouble a lot of players - but not Calcavecchia. "The Royal and Ancient [organisers] are nice enough to know I like to play fast and they certainly know I'm not going to hold anybody up," the former Ryder Cup player told reporters.

"But that was the first time I actually hit the first shot of the day. That's pretty cool. I'm an early riser anyway so I'll play at 6.30 any day." Calcavecchia picked up two birdies in a flawless front nine of 34 before making further inroads on par at the 11th, 12th and 18th holes.Asked if he was now feeling royal and ancient, the veteran kidded with reporters. "Well," he said, "I've been feeling ancient and royal for a long time.I actually feel pretty decent physically and that always helps. I've got a little bit of arthritis in my knuckles ? but when I play it doesn't bother me too much because you hit one shot every five, six, seven minutes.

"Hitting ball after ball on the range, I can't really do that because it hurts like hell. But other than that I feel great." Last year, at the age of 59, Watson led on the 72nd tee in the championship at Turnberry before losing a four-hole play-off to Stewart Cink, and Calcavecchia said he took heart from the five-time champion's performance. "Obviously you see a guy like Tom Watson last year almost winning and because he was playing well, he had confidence," he said.

"It doesn't really matter how old you are if you're feeling good about what you're doing. I think old guys can hang with the young guys." Calcavecchia said it also helped to have his wife, Brenda, caddying for him. "We have fun together most of the time. The times we don't it's entirely my fault," said the 13-time US PGA Tour winner. "If things are going bad and I start getting [difficult], there's not much she can do to slow me down. She'll tell me to just forget it, start over, calm down, don't screw this up, just relax, it's OK."

* Reuters