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Filling The Void

Filling the Void: van de Velde’s Collapse at Carnoustie

An ending nobody could have predicted.

2nd Hole, Carnoustie, Open 2007 by Steven Newton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Filling the Void: van de Velde’s Collapse at Carnoustie

Estimated Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Having a hard time with this whole “social distancing” thing? Yeah – us too. Especially when it comes to the lack of sports. So, we here at The Turf thought we’d offer a way to help ease the pain and suffering. While we may not have any of the current sports leagues to watch live, there is PLENTY of archive footage available at our fingertips. We’ve scoured the internet and assembled some of the most iconic, noteworthy and remarkable sporting events we could find. We also found some mundane, run of the mill matches and contests, that seemed banal at first watch. However, at this point, we’ll take anything that resembles sports, right? Each day, we’ll feature one of the contests and provide you a link where you can relive the glory, exhilaration, and thrill from the comfort of your couch.

Today: The 1999 Open Championship

Roughly 21 years ago to the day, we witnessed what has become the most notorious meltdown the golf world has ever seen. And it happened during one of the sport’s most iconic tournaments, at one of the most iconic courses, in spectacularly gut-wrenching fashion.

Jean van de Velde held a 3-stroke lead going in to the final hole. In baseball, that’s like having a 6-run lead going in to the ninth inning. It’s insurmountable. In football, it’s like having a 28-3 lead in the 3rd quarter. Analysts calling the round expected van de Velde to cruise to the finish line. Instead, he pulls a driver out of his bag (reportedly because he thought his lead to be only 2 strokes, not 3), and pushed his tee shot over water and onto the 17th hole to the right. Instead of laying up from here, he sent a two iron into the grandstand, which deflected into the brutal Carnoustie rough. His next wedge shot ended up in a stream (we all remember the image of him rolling up his pants to perhaps play a shot), he takes a drop, and bunker shot and a putt later, and van de Velde erased his 3 shot lead with a triple bogey 7.

van de Velde would go on to lose a 3-way playoff to eventual champion Paul Lawrie. What makes this moment heartbreaking in retrospect is that van de Velde would never go on to win a PGA tour event, nor finish better than 19th in any subsequent major championship in which he played. Despite some success on the European tour, the Frenchman has ultimately become defined by his struggles on the biggest stage. Check out the video below to relive one of golf’s most emotional moments, along with the man who lived it.

See You Tomorrow. Stay Safe. Stay Smart. Wash Your Hands.

Ryan Kelly lives in Cambridge, MA, a stone's throw away from his beloved Boston teams. When he is not working as an editorial assistant, he is providing commentary on the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins for The Turf.

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