Back at Carnoustie: We remember the curious case of Jean Van de Velde

Carnoustie is one of the most famous courses on the British Open loop, hosting some of the greatest champions in the game. From Ben Hogan in 1953 to Padraig Harrington in 2007, hoisting the Claret Jug after 72 holes there is no easy task. Out of the now 8 times this course has been home to this prestigious tournament, the one memory that will stick in all of our heads will be that fateful 18th hole in the 1999 Open. That is where we saw one of the all-time meltdowns in golf history, courtesy of Jean Van de Velde.

Picture this: you are coming down the 18th hole with a three-shot lead over past champion Justin Leonard and local hero Paul Lawrie. All you need to do is stick it in the fairway, lay up in front of the Burn, hit a decent approach shot, and Then, after all of that, 3-putt to win. Naturally, you’d probably go with a mid-iron off the tee to make sure you hit the fairway, right??

Well, as the French say, no.

Good old Jeanny boy decided to take out his driver, thinking that he only had a two shot lead, and so began his amazing demise. He hit a horrid tee shot onto the 17th hole, hit his second into the thick Fescue, and then, this:

Van de Velde ended up squandering his lead, and the Scotsman Paul Lawrie came through in a 4-hole playoff to bring home the Claret Jug. The Frenchman was so close to breaking a 92 year drought of French victors in a Major, but alas this still stands today.

Now I can tell you that there is no doubt in my mind I would have had a very similar score to Van de Velde on that 18th hole. There’s only one major difference between us: he was a professional golfer who was at the top of his game, and I was an 8 year old sitting on the floor at my grandparents house. And the kicker is: even I wouldn’t have hit Driver off that hole (mostly because I couldn’t hit a driver at 8, but I digress). Also, thinking you had a two-shot lead instead of a three-shot lead means maybe you hit a 3 iron off the tee instead of a 4 iron. Overall, the sheer lack of understanding your surroundings would cost him, and to this day people hear Van de Velde and know exactly what NOT to do coming down the 18th hole.

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