You know the story, have probably repeated it a hundred times. Van de Velde had an overwhelming lead as the 72nd hole is played at Carnoustie. He needs just a six ' a double bogey ' to win the Claret Jug. Instead ' well, you know what happened.
He lost. And Paul Lawrie, a local boy from less than 50 miles away, won in a playoff. Justin Leonard was the third name, the one everyone thought win, considering he had won before. But it was Lawrie who hit the spectacular shots in the four-hole playoff.
Suffice it to say the Lawrie was 10 shots behind after the third round. Suffice it to say that he had finished well over an hour earlier, convinced that his final-round 67 was good, but not nearly good enough.
Greenskeeper John Philp was at the center of controversy all week long with his murderous fairways, some of which were only 11 yards wide. On either side was knee-high gorse. The course was so difficult that 57 players failed to break 80 in the tournament that is hailed as the worlds Open.
Van de Velde survived with a brilliant putter, needing just 23 of them to open a five-shot lead after the third round. Behind him in second place were Leonard and Craig Parry. Lawrie was an afterthought, going out seven groups ahead of Van de Velde.
And so it happened that Van de Velde came to the 18th, difficult, it must be conceded, but easily within the range of a bogey. He was three shots ahead of the field as the engraver began working on the jug.
He began the strange odyssey by pulling out a driver and pushing it way right, into deep gorse. He tried to hit a 2-iron over the water hazard to the green, but pushed it also, the ball bounding off the iron railing of a grandstand and back behind the creek.
Now Van de Velde was in real trouble. His third shot was in deep rough, and he hacked away at it but could do little more bash it into the creek. The crowd gasped, realizing the unthinkable was happening. Van de Velde now lay four after the penalty.
But wait ' was he thinking of playing the ball from the steeply-lined creek? Van de Velde took off his shoes and socks and rolled up his trousers. After walking into the water, though, sanity prevailed and he took the penalty stroke. Again he trudged behind the creek, dropping into deep rough, and for his fifth stroke he plopped the shot into the bunker.
The gallery sat in stunned silence. Van de Velde got it out and to within six feet on his sixth shot. Could it be that the man who just moments before seemed like a certain winner, might not even make a playoff?
Fortunately, he holed the six-footer for a seven and a triple-bogey. But the playoff would hold more nasty surprises.
All three of the players hit poor drives the first playoff hole. But while Lawrie and Leonard managed to scramble for bogeys, Van de Velde took a six.
The 16th was another poor performance, all three taking bogey. But Lawrie was magnificent the last two holes. He stroked a 4-iron to 15-feet at the 17th and made the putt. And he hit 4-iron to the green at 18, again finishing up close and getting down with a birdie.
Jean should have won, conceded Lawrie. He had it in his pocket, no doubt about that. All he had to do was chip it down the fairway and made five.
I would have chipped it down the fairway. No disrespect, but Im glad he did what he did.
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