World No.1 Johnson out to exorcise van de Velde's Carnoustie demons
If anyone can empathise with Jean van de Velde about his infamous meltdown at The 1999 Open, it’s Dustin Johnson.
So it would be fitting if the current world No.1, and many people’s favourite to lift the Claret Jug this week, could lay some of van de Velde’s Carnoustie ghosts to rest 19 years on.
The Frenchman’s story is well-documented – needing only to double bogey the 72nd hole to become Champion Golfer, he found the Barry Burn and a bunker en route to a seven on the par-four 18th and lost the subsequent play-off to Paul Lawrie.
Winning isn't easy
Johnson’s own major heartbreak includes losing a three-shot overnight lead with a final-round 82 to lose the 2010 US Open before missing a 12-foot eagle putt to clinch the 2015 US Open and also sliding the subsequent three-foot birdie putt wide to not even take Jordan Spieth to a play-off.
Unlike van de Velde, the 34-year-old has since lifted a major – after 11 previous top-ten finishes – at the US Open two years ago but he understands the history of the Angus links as he targets a second this week.
“I've definitely seen some of the old Opens at Carnoustie and have a sense of what has happened at this course,” he said.
“I haven't gone back and watched the coverage or anything but I've definitely seen it when it's been on TV.
“Van de Velde’s loss was a pretty rough one but so were all of mine! I can feel for him a little bit but either way you look at it, we both lost. So it really doesn't matter who lost in a tougher way.
“I would always like to win more than just one major but I have played very well over the last few years. I've given myself a lot of chances.
“As we all know, it's very hard to win in a major. You've got to play four really good rounds, and everything in your game has to be working.”
Top of the tree
A consistent presence at the top of the rankings – Johnson was presented with a trophy from the Official World Golf Rankings on Tuesday for the most number of weeks at No. 1 in 2017 – few would argue his major cabinet should have more than just that sole US Open trophy.
The Claret Jug will be decided on Carnoustie’s perilous final four holes this year and although he’s one of the favourites, the American won’t be underestimating that stretch.
“The finish here is very difficult,” he said. “The 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th are all really good holes and it really doesn't matter which direction the wind's blowing, you know they're going to be difficult holes.
“Obviously with it blowing the way it is right now, it plays a little bit easier on 15, 16, and 18, but 17 is still a very good hole when it's into the wind.
“It's a good hole downwind too, but it would probably be a little more difficult if the wind switched and blew the other way.”
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