Caroustie still haunts Van Der Velde

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The Independent Online

Jean Van de Velde, now a member of the American Tour cannot stop thinking about events in Carnoustie last year.

Nearly 10 months have elapsed since the final-hole triple bogey which cost Van de Velde the Open championship, but without any prompting it came back into his mind this week.

"I was out practising when, for no reason, it struck me that on the 13th tee (last July) I said to myself 'Make six pars, and you'll win'," he said.

"I played the next five in one under but I had forgotten about it by then."

If he had remembered his target he might have opted for a safe lay-up, happily taken a bogey five and by two shots become France's first Open champion since Arnaud Massy in 1907.

Instead, as he will never be able to forget, he tried to carry the Barry Burn in two but rebounded off the edge of the stand over the burn into heavy rough, went from there into the water, eventually (after rolling up his trouser legs and climbing in) took a penalty drop and then went in a bunker.

The drama continued as he got up and down for a seven and for a play-off with Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard - which, after another mad sequence, Lawrie won.

As the next Open at St Andrews draws nearer Van de Velde knows he will have to relive the events over and over again.

But he is ready.

"I said I thought it was going to be 10 years (before people stop talking about it) - and one is almost behind us."

Van de Velde has joined Lawrie and Leonard on the US Tour this season and after a runners-up finish in the Tucson Open is close to securing his card for next year.

That would be a fine achievement in itself. But he also wants to keep his place in Europe, and victory in his national open on Sunday would take him into the top 12 on the Order of Merit.

"Seven, eight or 10 years ago I would have felt more pressure playing in France, but I am past that," said the 33-year-old.

Favourites for the title are Colin Montgomerie, still looking for his first victory of the season, defending champion Retief Goosen and New Zealander Michael Campbell, twice a winner at the start of the season but returning now from a two-month lay-off.