Thursday, Jul. 16, 2009

Van de Velde's Meltdown (1999)

Ten years ago at Carnoustie, Jean Van de Velde was mere moments from making history. On the verge of becoming his country's first Open winner since 1907, the unheralded Frenchman merely needed to shoot no worse than a double-bogey six on 18 to take the title. But despite being three strokes ahead, he opted for power and teed off with his driver. Luckily for him, his somewhat wayward shot found safe land, but what came next was simply beyond belief. Instead of laying up short of the green, which was undoubtedly the percentage play, Van de Velde went for glory and hit the ball into the deep rough. His next shot went into the water (known as the Barry Burn), but rather than take a penalty drop, Van de Velde — naturellement — rolled up his sleeves, took off his shoes and actually considered playing the ball. Sanity prevailed, and he took the drop, eventually needing an up and down from a bunker for a triple-bogey seven that got him into a playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie. The Frenchman had lost his momentum by this point, and Lawrie ended up winning. Van de Velde languished for years before an impressive comeback in the 2005 French Open resulted in a playoff. Guess what? He lost.