Christophe's comeback

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The Independent Online

Golf will never forget the effect a mysterious Frenchman called Christophe had on the destiny of the claret jug in 1999 at Carnoustie. The caddie, who could have advised Jean van de Velde to take an iron off the tee but instead stood back as his countryman pulled out the driver, was largely blamed for the subsequent devastation. It was expected that he would disappear into the shadows of the game's folklore.

Well, Christophe is back and he and his partner are in contention for the Open again. Christophe is still not keen to divulge his surname, for tax reasons it is believed. Not surprisingly, he is no longer with Van de Velde – even the most amorous of relationships would have struggled to survive that one. Instead, he now carries the bag of another Frenchman, Gregory Havret. It was a case, however, of "au revoir, Gregory" as he failed to make it through qualifying. Meanwhile, a French club professional called Alexandre Balicki was winning a berth in the Open the hard way, carrying his own bag around St Annes Old Links. Like two jilted lovers stranded at the drive-in, Balicki and Christophe were brought together.

"Christophe is a very good friend of mine," said Balicki, who is the professional at a club in Cannes. "He is a good guy, a very good guy, and a very good caddie. He gave me very good advice all day. I'm very glad to have him. He is Gregory's caddie. He is very lucky to have him." And Christophe is very, very lucky to have Balicki. Yesterday in shooting a 69, the 24 year old used the No 1 wood at 11 of the 14 driving holes, a courageous display if you consider that Jose Maria Olazabal only hit the driver four times. "If you go in the shit, go long in the shit," Balicki said with typical French reasoning afterwards.

Balicki, the 1994 French Amateur champion, and Christophe, who first caddied in the Open at Lytham in 1996, will not be fazed. They are determined to enjoy themselves. "We're just having fun. I will do my best and see at the end how it finishes," Balicki said.

Let us pray for his sake that it finishes with him still with his socks on and that Christophe is not so tight-lipped on Sunday.