It is said that there is no greater test in golf than arriving at the 18th tee needing just to make par to win a major championship. During the 1999 Open at Carnoustie Golf Links, Jean Van de Velde played almost error free golf over the first 71 holes. Attempting to become the first Frenchman to win a British Open since 1907, he stood on the 18th tee with a three shot lead.
Hole number 18 at Carnoustie is one of the most difficult finishing holes in all of golf. For the final round, number 18 (nicknamed “Home”) played as a 475 yard Par 4. Barry Burn snakes through the hole affecting every shot. It crosses directly in front of the green creating a huge obstacle for the 2nd shot.
While it is easy to second guess one’s decisions after the fact, most experts agree that Van de Velde’s decisions that day will go down as one of the biggest blunders in golf history. With a three shot lead Van de Velde only needed to make a double bogey 6 to raise the Claret Jug. His first decision was to hit driver off the tee. At the time, the TV commentators couldn’t believe he was not playing it safe by hitting an iron off the tee to avoid the Barry Burn.