No end to the nightmares as joie de vivre deserts Jean

Last updated at 23:57 02 July 2007


As long as golf is

played, the name of

Jean Van de Velde will

be conjured up to contradict

the belief that

finishing second condemns a

man to anonymity.

In that sense, the Frenchman has

fulfilled one of the templates of any

sporting life and staked a claim to

fame. But, looking back over eight

troubled years since the momentous

events of the 1999 Open at Carnoustie,

he does appear yet another victim of

the spirit of that phrase, another for

whom second place has delivered

little other than regret.

Cast your eyes, for example, over the

current issues of the legion of golf

magazines, all complete with their

Open preview packages, and you'll

struggle to find an interview with him.

How can this be so, given the tournament

is returning for the first time

to the fabled Angus course later this

month? Who wouldn't want to talk to

the loquacious one?

The reason is nothing to do with

editorial judgment. It is that Van de

Velde has fallen untypically silent,

preferring not to spend any length of

time looking back, filling his mind

with what might have been.

This might seem reasonable enough

until you remember the old Van de

Velde, the one filled with joie de vivre

in the 12 months that followed.

Scroll down to read more:

Everywhere

he went on the U.S. Tour,

journalists asked and Van de Velde

patiently answered. He couldn't stop

talking about Carnoustie back

then and it did his golf no harm

at all. He played in 13 events in Europe and collected

money in 12 of them,

finishing just outside the top 30.

I remember going to see him in

France the week after The Open. He

was on holiday at his then wife's

father's chateau, but that didn't stop

him throwing open the doors to me

and a colleague from the Mail on

Sunday.

An afternoon in his company convinced

both of us that here was an

intelligent man with life in perspective,

who would easily overcome his

triple-bogey folly at the final hole

when the Claret Jug beckoned.

"Why

not stay for our family barbecue?" he

asked, summing up a sublime afternoon

of wine and conviviality.

But there was one nagging doubt

placed by his wife Brigitte. While Jean

went off to open another bottle, she

confided: "You know, he still has

nights when he wakes up screaming,

thinking about the time he threw

away the French Open."

Heaven knows how many times

Jean has woken up screaming in the

last eight years, reliving the

nightmare of being up to his knees in

the Barry Burn.

What we do know is that he has

demonstrated conclusively that it is

winners who have all the luck. In the

time since, he has needed three knee

operations and been involved in an

acrimonious divorce.

He has blown another French Open.

While you're reading this, he is sitting

in a London hospital awaiting tests on

a debilitating illness that has wrecked

his season. The man who metaphorically

threw up all over himself at

Carnoustie has been literally vomiting

on the course in recent weeks and the

medics have yet to discover the cause.

Unless you subscribe to the idea

that Jean, now 41, will rise from his

sickbed and finish in the top two at

next week's Scottish Open, the return

to Carnoustie will go on without

him.

Scroll down to read more:

John daly stabbed

It would be a sad fate indeed for a

charming man who once unwittingly

rescued an Open from miserable

drudgery and gave it an immortal

twist of adventure.


Minnows net big pay day


When it comes to

offering a day in the sun

for the little man no sport

comes close to this one, as

events on the European and

U.S. Tours conclusively

proved on Sunday.

Where else would you get

such an unlikely win double

as Graeme Storm and Brian

Bateman, one ranked 205th

in the world and the other

408th?

Who would have given a

candle for the chances of this

unheralded duo with Colin

Montgomerie and Thomas

Bjorn hunting down the

former in the French Open

and Justin Leonard and inform

Woody Austin the latter

in the Buick Open?

Yet Hartlepool-born Storm,

who has made eight top-10s

in 117 tour starts, and

Bateman, with three in 150,

held firm to claim their first

wins, which they greeted

with similarly dumbfounded

expressions and almost

identical words: "It's lifechanging."

Given that both had just

more than doubled their

previous highest paydays —

each making roughly

£450,000 — they can say that

again.


Cristie sheds pounds and makes it big


From champion slimmer to champion

golfer is the exotic journey completed

by American Cristie Kerr, who claimed

the biggest event in the women's game,

the United States Open, at Pine Needles

on Sunday.

When it was over, the 29-year-old leapt

into the arms of her husband, who was

probably thankful she hadn't won the

title a few years ago, otherwise he

might have drowned in a sea of excess

flab.

Three-and-a-half stones, however, is

not the only thing Kerr has lost. Belying

the image of the happy fatty, she has

also shed the chippiness that once

made her one of the tour's more

unpopular figures, summed up by

Swede Catrin Nilsmark's memorable

description of her as a "brat".

Now the brat has all grown up to

become one of the tour's pin-ups, and

in Sunday's final round at Pine Needles

it came down to her and world No 1

Lorena Ochoa, who were the game's

two best players without a major title.

Ochoa is undoubtedly the more

talented but once more a major was

decided by character and the better

putting stroke.

Kerr prevailed to win the $562,000 first

prize and presumably millions more in

endorsements. Think how much she

could rake in from representing

WeightWatchers, for example?

One other talking point was the

extraordinary fact that 24 Koreans

made the halfway cut, just one less than

the number of Americans.

We always think of Tiger Woods as

causing a revolution in the game

following his Masters win 10 years ago.

But what about the impact Se Ri Pak's

win in the 1998 U.S. Open had on her

fellow Koreans, one directly

responsible for this remarkable

statistic?

Scroll down to read more:

Nick Dougherty


Just another day in the life of survivor Daly


So what happened next when

John Daly went to stay with the

hard living, beer swilling musician Kid

Rock during his week at the Buick

Open?

Well, the nights were fairly predictable:

huge quantities of Coors Lite consumed,

with Daly practising for the next day by

hitting balls off the top of cans.

The day? Not so, with the hard-living,

beer-swilling golfer playing through his

hangovers to finish tied 16th for his first

top 20 in a strokeplay event in 18

months.

Do you think when Kid Rock wrote his

song A Country Boy Can Survive he had

anyone in particular in mind?

Scroll down to read more:


How the R&A dug themselves out of a hole


The already low opinion

many European Tour pros

have of the Royal and

Ancient Golf Club plunged

still further yesterday after

an incident at Open

qualifying so farcical it

almost beggared belief.

The flag on the sloping 4th

green on the Old Course at

Sunningdale was cut on an

incline so steep that the

only way of stopping the

ball was if it went in the hole.

Australian Brett Rumford hit

his tee shot to 2ft, missed

the birdie putt and then

watched as the ball rolled

so far he found himself

putting for par from 35ft.

Among the first eight

players there was a fiveputt,

two four-putts and

Rumford's ridiculous threeputt

before the R&A jumped

in to end the absurdity.

Play was suspended so the

hole could be cut in a more

sensible position, while the

eight who had already

played it did so again at the

end of their rounds, with

their earlier score on the

hole wiped out.

As you can imagine, this

produced plenty of ribald

comment for the chairman

Martin Kippax to chew over.

One player, who better

remain nameless, summed

up the prevailing mood by

declaring that the R&A

couldn't "run a bath".

Kippax at least deserves

credit for admitting his

mistake at a time when

there was still a chance of

preserving a modicum of

credibility.

Normally when they make a

hash of things, as they did at

the 1999 Open at Carnoustie,

the R&A try to convince

everyone that black is white.

They will be mightily

relieved, however, that the

Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed

made it through.

He had a

par first time round on the

fourth but the 66 he

thought he had carded

became a 68 when he had

to play the hole again and

made a double-bogey five.

Fortunately a second round

68 saw him claim one of the

16 qualifying spots and so

prevent a terrible injustice.

Among the others through

are Ulsterman Graeme

McDowell, first round

leader at last year's Open,

and Nick Dougherty, leading

British player at last

month's U.S. Open.

Former Ryder Cup player

Peter Baker is also through,

one year after almost

giving up the game. He was

inspired to have another

bash after being one of Ian

Woosnam's vice-captains

last year at the K Club.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now