The British Open Golf is under way. But let’s go back to 1999 and one of the most famous British Open’s ever.
Frenchman Jean Van de Velde led by 5 strokes going into the final round. Surely, he couldn’t collapse like Greg Norman and his 6 shot lead in the 1996 US Masters?
Well he did and in more spectacular fashion.
When the British Open started in 1860, the winner was given a red leather belt with a silver buckle. Imagine winning that. I think almost every golfer wears that at some point in time now. The winner now receives the Claret Jug trophy. In 1999 with Van de Velde leading by 3 strokes, with one hole to play, the engraver took the liberty to etch his name onto the trophy. That was the last time he worked for the British Open Golf, as the Parisian collapsed completely.
If you make a mistake on a computer, you simply press, backspace. Even before computers there was liquid paper to go over things. Well, it’s a bit different with engraving and the engraver had to scrub out one name and replace it, somehow, with Paul Lawrie!
On the final hole, Jean went for broke. It wasn’t a disastrous shot and his ball was safe. His next shot, wasn’t safe. He used a 2 iron, a club which is now like the walkman and his ball hit the grandstand and ricocheted into heavy rough. His next shot, plopped into the water.
Off came the shoes and socks and he almost played from the water. Sanity returned, he took a drop and then promptly put his next shot into a bunker.
Australian Craig Parry, was next to him in the sand and holed his shot. Van de Velde needed to hole his shot to win, outright. He didn’t, but somehow calmly drained a seven foot putt to go into a three way play off with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie.
The play off format for the British Open is a four hole play off, with the lowest score over these four holes, winning.
Lawrie, who had started the day an incredible 10 shots off the pace, won, but the tournament is forever remembered as the one Jean Van de Velde, lost.
Have a look at Van de Velde’s last hole. It will break your heart.