Golf: Lawrie and Van de Velde ready for rematch

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND'S LATEST golfing hero may have received letters from all over the world, with the unsurprising exception of France, addressed merely to "Paul Lawrie, 1999 Open Champion, Aberdeen", but that is nothing compared to some of the missives sent to the man who should have taken possession of the claret jug at Carnoustie.

One envelope was addressed to "Jean Van de Velde, south-western France" with a photo from a newspaper of the Frenchman with his trousers rolled up standing in the creek. "It was from an English fan and it was a nice letter," said the man who needed a six to win the Open and took seven.

"It's funny," Van de Velde added, "because I haven't received a letter saying, `you stupid idiot'. There haven't been any negative letters. In fact someone wrote me an e-mail saying the next time someone tells you he could have made a five or six to win the Open, give him 10p and tell him to give you a phone call if he's ever in that position.

"It has definitely helped the game in France," he added. "Everyone was obviously disappointed with the finish but very proud of what I did. My sponsors at Disneyland Paris were thrilled. They haven't named a ride after me yet but maybe it could be `Water Torture' or the `Van de Velde Splash'."

As at Carnoustie, Van de Velde refused to pass any of the blame for his last-hole collapse on to his caddie, Christophe Angiolini. "I was the one who was making the decisions," he said. "Interpol is not chasing him. If he had stood in my way with a wedge in his hand, I would have knocked him into the water."

Nor is he dwelling on "what might have been". "I don't want anyone to feel any pity for me. I have no right to complain. A very close friend of mine, Olivier Edmond, has cancer. He is 29 and has been having chemotherapy for three months. You have to put things into perspective. From one point of view, this is not the most tragic thing that could happen to me.

"My life is changing in a lot of positive ways. I have an invitation to the USPGA and the Masters next year and I am in contention for the Ryder Cup. I want to convert that to be the first Frenchman to play, so my mind is focused for the next four weeks."

While Lawrie is already assured of a place at Brookline in September, it will be fascinating to see how both men react in their first tournament since Carnoustie.

With the exception of the USPGA in a fortnight, the pounds 1.3m Smurfit European Open at the K Club here is the biggest prize money event left before the team is finalised on 22 August. Van de Velde is eighth on the table but anyone in the top 80 could creep into the 10 automatic spots by Monday evening.

Having paraded the Open trophy on the pitch before the Aberdeen v Coventry friendly football match last week, Lawrie was keen to get back to hitting balls. The happy problem of how to include events like the World Match Play, the Dunhill Cup, the Grand Slam, in Hawaii, and the Million Dollar Challenge at Sun City into his schedule has not been resolved.

"Everyone's expectation of me has gone up," Lawrie said. "I understand. People will be looking to see what Lawrie shot today, oh, he's three over, what's going on? I don't have a problem with that. There will be a little bit more pressure on me than before the Open but it is a challenge.

"The fun has only just begun. The Open was the start of something big and it's up to me and Adam [Hunter, his coach] to get down to some serious work and play some really nice golf.

"How do you follow winning the Open? It would be nice to win the World Match Play and whatever. It's obviously going to be quite difficult but I think with some hard work it's going to be fine."