Carnoustie - When Jean van de Velde says he
believes that Jordan Spieth will get over his Masters meltdown, the Frenchman
knows what he is talking about.
Needing a double-bogey six down the last
hole of the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie in Scotland, Van de Velde produced
a calamitous triple-bogey seven and eventually lost out to Paul Lawrie in a
It was a moment that came to mind at the
Masters when Spieth blew the lead by putting two balls into the water on the
12th hole, allowing Danny Willett to storm past him to victory.
"Trust me, you can't believe how fast
everything is happening when that guy is you," said Van de Velde.
"That's what I love about golf. It
slaps you on the finger five minutes after the biggest high you could ever
Van de Velde stepped onto the final tee of
the 1999 Open leading by three shots and needing only to record a six to become
the first Frenchman since 1907 to capture golf's oldest major.
He had birdied the 18th hole in two of
three prior rounds.
Van de Velde chose a driver off the tee,
but put his tee shot well right of the fairway.
Rather than layup with his second shot, he
decided to go for the green, only to come horribly unstuck as his ball
ricocheted off a grandstand, hit the top of a stone wall and cannoned back into
He put his third shot into the Barry Burn, which
stretches across the 18th fairway, and then removed his shoes and socks to step
into the water as he contemplated whether or not to attempt a shot.
In the end he elected to take a penalty
drop, from where he found a greenside bunker, before bravely hoisting his sixth
shot onto the green and sinking a six-foot putt for a triple-bogey seven.
It left him in a three-way tie with
American Justin Leonard and Scotland's Lawrie, who prevailed after a four-hole
The weekend before last - and on the 20th
anniversary of Australian Greg Norman's collapse at the 1996 Masters - Spieth
felt the championship slip from his fingers in similar fashion.
Spieth, the defending champion, looked to
be cruising to victory, but a disastrous 12th hole meant that he ended up
handing his green jacket over to Englishman Willett.
Van de Velde said he sympathised with the
22-year old Texan.
"Jordan is an extraordinary player who
has an extraordinary head on his shoulders and he will get over it extremely
quickly," Van de Velde said.
"And when he does, he will become
stronger and stronger."
Van de Velde was speaking by telephone from
his residence in Hong Kong to reporters at Carnoustie, where he will make his
European Senior Tour debut at the British Seniors Open, which starts on July
The affable Frenchman, who turns 50 on May
29, says that he has no qualms about returning to Carnoustie 17 years on from
his infamous meltdown.
"It did take me a few days to find my
sleep again after the Sunday at Carnoustie, due to the stress, the adrenaline,
the rush, trying to analyse it or whatever," he said.
"But after that, I have never once
woken up in a cold sweat and it has never given me difficulty finding sleep.
"However, I know it is part of
history. There were quite a few viewers that day, 250 to 300 million, so it
would take me a while if I met all of them and answered their questions about