It was eight years ago that Jean Van de Velde collapsed on the 72nd hole of the British Open at Carnoustie. He won’t get the chance to redeem himself this time due to a mystery illness that has prevented him from qualifying for the championship.
But Van de Velde found a way to be at Carnoustie on Monday, conducting a press conference to a packed audience via telephone from his home in France.
“I am very sad not to be at Carnoustie,” he said. “I never watch golf on TV. But this time I will. I have no regrets about what happened in 1999, but if I could replay one shot it would be the 3rd. I would hit out sideways.”
Instead, Van de Velde tried to hack out to the green from high rough, but the Barry Burn got in the way. That shot came after an unlucky ricochet off the grandstand on his second, a shot that would be almost impossible to replicate this year because the grandstand has been repositioned.
“That’s life,” Van de Velde said, laughing. “I get asked about 1999 every day when I am at a golf tournament. But, away from golf, it doesn’t happen at all — thank God! I have explained every angle of it and it belongs in the past now. But it will still be 20 years before people stop asking me about it. Golf is part of me, but it’s not all of me,” he said.
Van de Velde, now 41, is undergoing tests to diagnose the illness, which is making his limbs ache and causing him to vomit. But he plans to return to the European Tour when he is fit again and believes he still has plenty of chances to compete at the Open.
“It is important for me to see people enjoying watching me play,” he said. “I will see you all at Royal Birkdale next year.”