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Thursday, July 20, 2006

British Open History: The Rise & Fall of Jean Van de Velde

The 2006 US Open held us witness to one of the greatest collapses in golf. We all remember it too well. Poor Phil! We are still trying to figure out what he was thinking at the conclusion of Winged Foot.

With this in mind, I decided to ask around: What was the biggest meltdown in golf? The vote was almost unanimous. Think back to The Open in 1999. Just the mention of Van de Velde's name necessitates a sigh. Here is the recap: With a 3 shot lead on the 18th hole, Van de Velde only needed to make a 6 on the par-4 to win. On his first shot he shanks it to the right and barely misses the creek. Next he hit the grandstand and ended up 30 yards right of the green. Standing in knee-high grass he hit it a few yards in front of him into the creek. The crowd groans. He then decided to remove his shoes and socks and roll up his pants and walk into the water. At this point there is a noticeable murmur from the crowd as they try to figure out what the Frenchman is doing. After standing in the creek for some time contemplating what to do, he finally decided to take a penalty drop, only to hit it back into the rough. From the rough he knocked it into the bunker. He played his bunker shot well and was about five feet from the hole. Finally on his seventh shot he makes the put to have a three-way playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie. Van de Velde lost in the five hole playoff that is used in the Open Championship.

Since then, Van de Velde made the news when he tried to make a point by entering the Women's British Open and even offered to wear a skirt and shave his legs. Van de Velde has yet to win a major in his career.