Think of an Open Golf choke and you most likely will think of Jean Van de Velde
Worst Open Golf Choke #1: Jean Van de Velde, Carnoustie, 1999
Standing on the final tee, journeyman French golfer Jean van de Velde led The Open Championship of 1999 by three shots. What followed was the worst Open Golf choke ever.
“Here was a man who had a golf tournament won,” reflected Jack Nicklaus “and mentally and strategically played a hole so badly that it cost him the golf tournament.”
Van de Velde had won only once before on tour: the Roma Masters in 1993. This was one of the less prestigious events on tour. With below-average prize money, it was a not a draw for the best players and it survived only two years as a European Tour event.
On the 487-yard par 4 of the 1999 Open at Carnoustie Van de Velde took out his driver. Two of the three previous times he played this hole, he had made birdie; the other time it was par. Now, even a double bogey would see him home.
A wayward drive went over the burn on the right of the fairway, but found land. Rather than chip back on to the fairway and play to the green with his third shot, he went for the green with his 2-iron.
This shot hit the greenside grandstand. In itself that would not normally have been a problem, as he would be given a free drop. But the ball hit a rail on the grandstand and ricocheted from it. That was bad break number one.
The ball then rebounded onto the stone wall of the Barry Burn and then bounced up and fifty yards backwards into knee-deep rough – bad break number two.
With a third shot hacked out of the rough, he dumped the ball into the Barry Burn.
Van de Velde followed the ball, having taken off his shoes and socks and rolled up his trousers, and he contemplated playing out of the water.
But sense prevailed and he took a drop. Now he needed to get up and down to win. His fifth shot went into a greenside bunker.
He splashed out to 6ft and holed the putt to at least salvage something in that this left him in a three-way play-off. But he lost out in this to Paul Lawrie.
For a television commercial for a putter, Van de Velde returned to Carnoustie that winter to replay the hole using only this putter to see if he could do it in the six shots he had needed.
He did so at the third attempt.