Van de Velde: "It's only a golf hole"

Posted: July 19, 2007

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland - Jean Van de Velde isn't here, which, of course, is a shame. Because he and Carnoustie will be as one, for as long as they play this goofy game. That's how it is when you suffer perhaps the most gruesome meltdown this game has ever witnessed.

In case you've been stranded with Gilligan and the gang for way too long, 8 years ago the Frenchman fumbled away a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole of the British Open here, then finished third in a three-way, four-hole playoff. The image of him standing barefooted in the Barry Burn, pondering whether to hit what would have been his fourth shot out of the wet stuff, remains hauntingly timeless.

He didn't qualify to be in the field. But he might have showed up anyway, if not for an undiagnosed illness that has sidelined him the last month. Instead, he will watch it on a screen like most of the planet.

Earlier this week, via a phone call arranged by the folks who run this thing, he expressed his disappointment. And his perspective.

"I'm very sad I'm not there and not competing, but I want to look at it and put it behind," he said. "I never watch golf on TV. But this one I'm definitely going to look at, because of all the memories it brings back. As a sportsman, I have respect for the place and the tournament as well. I don't feel like I have the right to be complaining too much.

"I have no regrets [about what happened]. We can go back that route and talk about it again and again and again. It's not what makes Jean Van de Velde. It's part of me, but not me.

"It's only a golf hole. It's only a golf tournament. It is actually something that belongs to the past, not to the present or future. To be really honest, of course you get tired, especially when you have to answer the same question over and over. I think it's going to last a good 15 to 20 years before people stop asking.

"There's probably another 12 to go."

Unfortunately, this is one of those instances when the statue of limitations may not apply. *

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