SI Vault
 
Mon Dieu! Better Safe Than Sorry
Rick Reilly
July 26, 1999
Do you realize you could be British Open champ?
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
July 26, 1999

Mon Dieu! Better Safe Than Sorry

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

Do you realize you could be British Open champ?

You telling me you can't make a six on a par 4? A double bogey? You could make double bogey in flippers and a snorkel. You could hit a five-iron, an oar and a rigatoni noodle and make a double bogey. A well-trained chicken could make a freaking double bogey.

The only golfer on earth who can't make a double bogey when he has to is France's Jean Van de Velde, which is too bad, because he needed a simple double bogey on the 72nd hole on Sunday in Carnoustie, Scotland, to win the British Open.

The trophy was polished. The 10-year exemption was ready. The wife was lipsticked up. All he needed was a six. He made a seven.

The last hole at Carnoustie is a 480-yard par 4 with a wee burn that crosses the fairway three times. All you want to do to make double bogey is hit two little five-irons in front of each crossing, then a little wedge and three-putt for immortality.

Instead, Van de Velde hits a driver. A freaking driver! A driver brings the first crossing of the wee burn into play. A driver brings Carnastie's wrist-breaking botany into play. Van de Velde needs to hit a driver like Strom Thurmond needs a nipple chain.

Why doesn't his caddie stop him? "Well, zere was a lot of zee wind," says Van de Velde's odd caddie, Christopher (he wouldn't give his last name), a 30-year-old Parisian who wears a beatnik's tuft under his chin and a white beret over his bleached-blond hair.

Wind, Chris? Wind? You've got three shots to reach the green! If I'm Chris, I snap the driver in half and say, "Fine. Hit the driver."

O.K., Van de Velde hits the driver and pushes his shot a kilometer right, nearly onto the 17th tee box. Now he's got 240 yards to the green with nothing but burn and heartburn in between.

Any erect-walking mammal with an ant's nostril of sense hits a 120-yard wedge into the middle of the fairway, then another 120-yard wedge onto the green, three-putts and orders up champagne.

Continue Story
1 2 3