Imagine Golf Blogs

Open Moments: Van de Velde

The disaster at Carnoustie in 1999

Posted Jun 28, 2011 by Chris White

The Barry Burn that van de Velde went for a paddle in

It’s a tight one for which memory gets the number one spot for all time greatest moments at the Open, but finding the water just off the final green, is Jean van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999.

A relatively unknown player going into the event, Frenchman van de Velde won 4 professional events after turning pro in 1987, winning 2 European Tour titles, but never a major, and he hadn’t had as good a chance as that day at Carnoustie in 1999.

Walking onto the 18th tee, the par 4, van de Velde could afford to double bogey the hole and still take victory from Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie. For the majority of the competition, the Frenchman had been faultless, and he had birdied the same hole twice in the previous three rounds. So as he approached his ball, few could see what happened next coming.

Using a driver off the tee, despite his big lead, he just missed the burn and rather than choosing to lay up to the green, he decided to try and get there in two shots rather than three. This shot went way to the right of the target, bounced off the grandstand, onto a rock in the Barry Burn, and fifty yards backwards into the rough, which was about knee high.  

The rough hampered his next shot, and he ended up miscuing the ball straight into the water. It was then that the famous pictures of van de Velde with his shoes and socks off, paddling about in the Burn were taken. When he finally realised that he couldn’t play the ball from in the water, he took a drop and sent this shot straight into a bunker. He chipped out and completed his putt for a seven, forcing a three-way playoff.

Ultimately, Paul Lawrie won the playoff, as van de Velde looked shell-shocked throughout the extra holes.

Van de Velde never really recovered from the disappointment at the 1999 Open, with his next best major finish being 19th at the Masters in 2000, and he suffered with injuries for several years and won the Madeira Island Open in 2006.

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