SOUTHPORT, England -- M. Jean Van de Velde posted a handsome 70 on Sunday at Royal Birkdale, a score for which G. Norman would have paid millions. But Van de Velde does not think in such ways. He has never been unduly concerned with the numbers professional golf produces. The Frenchman -- playing on a reconstructed knee after a skiing accident, who was unable to play for a long stretch last year due to a mysterious virus that he feared would be cancer (it wasn't) -- is very happy to be healthy, energetic and alive. His golf scores are secondary. He is, and you may not believe this, but I do, more interested in the relationships he has produced through the game.
"I won't be doing this for too much longer," he said on Sunday. He's 42 and has been playing professionally, and traveling the globe, for more than half his life. He lives in Dubai and Hong Kong and is a man of varied interests, including architecture and design, and not just in the golf sense. There's also wine, skiing, gourmet food, fine clothing and other Franco-centric hobbies. "It's about time to try something else."
Everywhere he goes, people remind him of his unforgettable meltdown on the 72nd hole of the British Open at Carnoustie, in 1999. He has spent nine years charming people with the candor with which he accepts what happened that day.
Some years ago, he won a team event at Pebble Beach with Billy Andrade. He was asked, "How do you like our California wines?" He said, "You call those wines?" Thousands of Californians laughed. Such is the charm of the man.