• Record comeback gives Lawrie title

  • Sunday, Jul. 18
    Frozen moment: Van de Velde throws it away

    By Bob Harig
    Special to

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- With his name all but engraved on the Claret Jug, Jean Van de Velde made a decision that will be debated for as long as the Scottish days are long.

     Jean Van De Velde
    Jean Van de Velde thought about hitting out of Barry Burn.

    Needing to make only a 6 on the par-4 18th hole at Carnoustie Golf Links to secure the British Open on Sunday, Van de Velde squandered the championship in excruciating fashion, clanging one shot off the bleachers, dumping another into the water, chunking yet one more into a bunker before finally making a triple-bogey 7.

    That put him in a three-man playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie, who won the championship by three shots in the four-hole format.

    And it left Van del Velde wondering about the 18th.

    "Even being three ahead, what do you do?" Van del Velde said afterward.

    For most of the past three days, Van de Velde played flawlessly. Bidding to become the first Frenchman to win the tournament since 1907, he had made just a single double-bogey during the tournament and had birdied the 18th in each of the past two rounds.

    But after a so-so drive, the smart play, most agreed, was to lay up in front of the Barry Burn. From there, Van de Velde could have hit a short iron onto the green and even three-putted for the victory.

    But when he got to his ball, he found he had a good lie in the rough. He wanted to go for the green, and tried to do so with a 2-iron.

    "I only had 185 (yards) to carry the water, which wasn't very demanding," he said. "The only thing you didn't have to do was hit it left. So do you hit a wedge down the left side and then pitch on the green, or do you hit a shot over there and try to move forward with it?

    "The ball was lying so good, I took my 2-iron. ... I pushed it a little. I didn't hit a very good shot."

    Not even close.

    Van de Velde's shot hit the grandstand that runs along the right side of the green, came back, bounced off the top of the rocks on Barry Burn and landed in the tall grass short of the burn.

    "I couldn't go backwards, I don't think I could have done anything," he said. "The only thing I could do was try to hit it hard. Obviously I didn't hit it hard enough or get it out as I wanted."

    The ball ended up in the creek, and for a moment, Van de Velde had his shoes off, ready to try and play his ball from the water. But he noticed it wasn't sitting up as well as he thought, so he reconsidered and took a drop.

    Now laying four, he still could get a shot on the green and one-putt for the victory. "I went underneath the ball and finished in the trap," he said.

    All the while, the fans in the stands were in a rage. Lawrie, a Scotsman, stood to gain from this collapse. He practiced on the putting green. Leonard, despondent about his poor finish, suddenly had new life.

    And Craig Parry, who had his own misfortune during the final round, stood by in disbelief, his second shot in the bunker, waiting to finish.

    "I was really feeling for Jean on 18," said Parry, who holed his bunker shot for a birdie. "I could see him throwing the tournament away. He played great for 71 holes. I feel sorry for him."

    Van de Velde managed to get the bunker shot on the green, about 6 feet away. Now with only the rain making noise, Van de Velde calmly made his triple-bogey putt to get a spot in the playoff.

    By then, the damage was done.

    "Maybe it was asking too much for me," Van de Velde said. ""Maybe I should have laid up. The ball was laying so well. ... Next time, I hit a wedge, and you all forgive me?"

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