• Van de Velde backs Spieth to bounce back

    Jordan Spieth AFP PHOTO

    Jordan Spieth AFP PHOTO

    CARNOUSTIE, United Kingdom: 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 play-off.

    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 think of.”

    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 lay up 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 knee-high rough.

    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 nor 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 play-off.

    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 21.

    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.



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