My Jean Van der Velde moment

Ok I didn’t lose the Open Championship yesterday but I threw away winning the St Andrews Thistle Club’s Bruce Trophy in rather spectacular fashion, on a windy day over the Jubilee Course.

We all remember how Jean van Der Velde made a complete and utter Horlicks of the last hole at Carnoustie, when he took out a two-iron to try and hit the green, knowing that he only needed a bogey to win the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. He ended up hitting a finely struck shot which was heading towards the green and his manifest glory, but it just caught the side of the grandstand and rebounded into the burn from where he famously tried to play it out. Needless to say he lost The Open, gifting it to Paul Lawrie.

Well my story is slightly different but parallel. I had played very well in the conditions and after six holes was in fact one-under par (not too shabby off my playing handicap of ten). I did make a slight mess of the next couple of holes but got it back nicely. So, when standing on the fifteenth tee I knew that I only had to finish with four bogeys to win the competition. After 20 rounds of the Bruce Trophy I was in a massively strong position. As a betting man I would say that I was in fact a very heavy odds-on favourite. In fact to be definitive, I would say that my in-running odds (for I was surely running) would have been somewhere between Man City winning the Premier and Ergumene pulling off the Arkle Chase.

Now, the fifteenth on the Jubilee is not that hard a hole. In fact after the event I realise I could easily have taken my putter off the tee and got a five. But I didn’t. And what I did do you will not necessarily believe (well apart from those people who really know me well that is). First, I took out my five iron and hit a terrible shot straight out of bounds on the right. Next, I made a move to grab my driver in utter fury, but prevailed upon myself to hit another five iron which unfortunately just caught the bunker up the left. Then, I probably did the most crazy thing of all. I forewent the sensible route of taking my medicine and playing out safely. Instead, I took out my 8 iron and attempted to hit the small green from a hundred or so yards out, into a strong cross-wind and a steepish bunker face in my direct line to the green. To avoid this I tried to aim right of the green and draw it back (bear in mind that right of the green is out of bounds!). I did in fact make seriously good contact, but neither me nor my playing partner saw the ball. And alas, I never saw that ball again. Game over. I got a nine. What a complete numpty!

That is probably my worst ever experience on a golf course. And in one way I can kind of really sympathize with Monsieur Van der Velde. However, I also feel most stupid and annoyed with myself at my actions. What was I playing at? Indeed what was going through Jean’s mind too? We had done all the really hard work.

All he had to do was take out an 8 iron and play to the safety of the open fairway and leave himself another easy 8 iron into the green. Ok not overly sexy, but it would have got the job done and bagged him The Open. And as I said, I just really had to take my putter out or hit a little half-punch iron-shot a hundred yards or so up the fairway. Ok not exactly playing to the gallery, but there wasn’t one.

And I suppose Jean may have been able to lean on that ‘playing to the gallery’ aspect as some sort of excuse, given that he has all that Gallic stuff going on?

However we both failed. And we both failed badly.

This brings to mind my pal, Scotty, who works on the mindset and mental performance aspect of the game. Indeed he has a business doing so, ‘Quiet Mind Golf’, and is a brilliant golfer into the bargain. He always chastises me for spending so much time tinkering with my swing and technique. He believes that most of golf is between the ears.

So now, lets say, I’m buying much more into his school of thought. He indeed has a formidable point.

So fare forward I say!

But didn’t I say that in last week’s post?

Yes I did! But I will say it again as I’m a stubborn old oaf.

Fare forward.





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