Looking back at Van de Velde's gaffe

Originally Published: July 17, 2007
ESPN.com/GolfDigest.com

All he needed was a 6. One lousy double-bogey and Jean Van de Velde would be known for all time as a British Open champion. Instead, he made triple, finished in a three-way tie for first place and lost to Paul Lawrie in the ensuing playoff.

That is what happened in 1999, the last time the Open was held at Carnoustie. Just how bad was that blunder? And how will the course play this time around? Our experts tee off in Fact or Fiction.

Jean Van de Velde's blunder is the worst all-time in major championship golf.

Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FACT. Sam Snead needed a 5 on the final hole to win the 1939 U.S. Open and made an 8, but he didn't know where he stood; Greg Norman didn't lose the 1996 Masters on just one hole. Van de Velde should have been able to make a 6 on a par-4 hole -- heck, he did it with a putter in a commercial he made five months later. This is the all-time gaffe in the majors.

Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FICTION. I'll put it at No. 2. What beats Van de Velde's triple? That's easy. Roberto De Vicenzo signing an incorrect scorecard after the final round of the 1968 Masters. If he had simply signed for the score he shot, De Vicenzo would have forced a playoff; instead, he lost by a stroke to Bob Goalby.

Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FICTION. It just seems that way because Sam Snead (8 on last hole of 1939 U.S. Open), Arnold Palmer (double bogey on the last hole of the 1961 Masters) and Greg Norman (78 in final round of the 1996 Masters) didn't take off their shoes and stand in a creek.

John Antonini, senior editor, Golf World: FICTION. Until someone else fails to sign a scorecard or signs an incorrect scorecard, I'll vote Roberto De Vicenzo's blunder in the 1968 Masters as the biggest in the majors. Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot a year ago is a close second.

This week's winning score will be below par (it was 6 over in 1999).

Harig: FACT. Word is the conditions are not nearly as severe as they were in 1999, and a rainy summer has made for softer, slower conditions.

Sobel: FACT. With much of the thick, wispy rough removed from Carnoustie, players will be able to miss the fairways and still have a shot at hitting the green. I think the winning score will be some 8-10 strokes better than it was in '99.

Sirak: FACT. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club will bend over backwards to make the course playable after the PR beating it took in 1999.

Antonini: FICTION. Never before has the cumulative score at the four majors been over par for the year, but we're halfway there in 2007. It's 6 over after two majors, and it won't get closer to par at Carnoustie. Somewhere between Augusta's 1-over winner and Oakmont's 5-over champ should do it.

After St. Andrews, Carnoustie is the best British Open venue.

Harig: FICTION. For pure golf, it is difficult to argue, but logistics put Carnoustie behind places such as Royal Troon and Muirfield.

Sobel: FICTION. Well, maybe we can give it a T-2 result. Tough to top Muirfield and Royal Troon, but Carnoustie is certainly on the same level as those two. Now, if we were talking the hardest Open venue...

Sirak: FICTION. Carnoustie may be the most difficult venue, but Royal Lytham & St. Annes is an awesome venue.

Antonini: FACT. As long as the course is fair. If it's set up as it was in 1999, I'd have no use for Carnoustie. Really, though, all the British Open venues are really interesting.

Subscribe to:
Golf Digest
Golf DigestGolf for WomenGolf World