Carnoustie’s return to The Open rota after 24 years was highly dramatic.
Jean Van de Velde, hoping to become France’s second Champion Golfer in addition to Arnaud Massy in 1907, led by three strokes on the 72nd tee but his second shot took a freak bounce off a grandstand railing and finished in thick rough. From there he chipped into the Barry Burn, took a drop after thinking of playing, went in a bunker and ended up with a triple-bogey seven.
It meant a play-off that was won by Paul Lawrie, with birdies at the 17th and 18th holes, by three from Van de Velde and Justin Leonard, who had bogeyed the 18th twice in one day. “I made plenty of friends because a Scottish man won,” Van de Velde said. “But there’s worse things in life.”
Lawrie, a 30-year-old from Aberdeen ranked 241st in the world, was the first Scottish-born winner in Scotland since Tommy Armour in 1931 and, after qualifying at Downfield, the first qualifier to win since exemptions for the leading players were introduced in 1963.
His scores of 73, 74 and 76 had left him 10 strokes behind through 54 holes, double the previous record comeback margin. A fine 67 put him in the clubhouse at six over but still an unlikely winner with Van de Velde on the course.
“Jean should have won,” Lawrie said. “No disrespect, I’m glad he did what he did. I can’t explain it but I had a feeling someone could come through who wasn’t supposed to.”
Narrow fairways and thick rough caused havoc in the wind. No one scored under par on Thursday and first-round leader Rod Pampling missed the cut after an 86 the next day.
“There was triumph, tragedy, romance, farce, pathos and controversy,” summed up Hugh Campbell, chairman of The R&A Championship Committee.