Tue, Jul 17, 2007 - Page 19 News List

FEATURE: Jean Van de Velde still dogged by misfortune

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND

Jean Van de Velde is honored at Carnoustie with a concrete marker buried in the ancient sod of the final hole, a reminder of one of golf's greatest blunders and an apt symbol of a stalled career.

Now 41 and with his game in disrepair, Van de Velde will not even participate in this year's British Open, the result of poor play and a recent stomach ailment that forced him to withdraw from a 36-hole qualifier.

He told reporters at the French Open last month that the injury had affected his play so much that "anybody seeing me would have thought I was drunk."

In the eight years since Van de Velde frittered away a three-shot lead on the last hole of the 1999 British Open, he has remained on the fringes of success and has often been identified by stories of heartbreak.

Though he took his defeat in good cheer despite a triple bogey that included a shot off a grandstand and a pitch into the water, the years that have followed have not always been kind.

Van de Velde divorced, fired his caddie, and tore up his knee while skiing. He has since remarried, and he won the 2006 Madeira Island Open on the European Tour, but he has never won a major championship.

It is possible that he will live out his golfing days being remembered for his collapse at Carnoustie and little else.

"He's handled it so well and so gracefully, and it was probably the best 71 holes in his career and the one worst in his career all wrapped up in one," Jim Furyk said of Van de Velde during the AT&T National.

In the immediate aftermath of the 1999 Open, Van de Velde was able to laugh at himself, but he has grown weary of talking about his infamy, at least at no charge.

Leading into this year's British Open, he asked to be paid for being interviewed, the requests were so numerous.

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