Shop Golf Instrunction Video Series

Play Golf America...Your Link to the Game

Subscribe to RSS feed for NewsNews

Story Image
A large gallery watched Jean Van de Velde excel on the final hole this time. (Kinnard/Getty Images)

No final-hole disaster this time for Van de Velde

Print News

Jean Van de Velde was the biggest name of 12 players to make it through a 36-hole last-chance qualifier that ended Tuesday.

SOUTHPORT, England (PA) -- Jean Van de Velde will be back in the Open Championship next week, thanks to a last-hole birdie on Tuesday and the help of the crowd he had criticized 24 hours earlier.

While playing partner Danny Willett, the former amateur world No. 1, missed out after a closing double-bogey 6, Van de Velde survived the 36-hole final qualifying at Hillside by the skin of his teeth with a 1-under-par total of 143.

The 42-year-old, forever to be remembered for his last-hole triple-bogey 7 at Carnoustie in 1999, pitched to within 18 inches of the flag on the 439-yard 18th. But that would have been of no use if his ball had not been found in dense rough right of the 17th fairway.

"I might have taken 8 on the hole, but managed to par it," said Van de Velde, who had asked for better control of the spectators after his opening 70. "The crowd were on my side both days, but just a little bit too close to my side at times.

"People are trying to communicate with you, but sometimes they were so excited they got in my way and I felt I had to say something."

With only four of the 96-strong field qualifying for Royal Birkdale, Van de Velde -- absent from Carnoustie last year after contracting a virus that even led to tests for bone cancer at one point -- tied for second place with amateurs Chris Woods of England and Australian Rohan Blizard, three behind England's Jamie Elson.

"It means a lot to be playing in it again. There are only two tournaments a year I want to play in and play good in -- the French Open and the Open," he added. "I qualified in 1999 and played quite well I seem to remember, so maybe this is my chance."

Elson, a teammate of Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Nick Dougherty in the 2001 Walker Cup, won by three with rounds of 67 and 73.

"I was as nervous as a cat all day," said the 27-year-old, whose father Pip was the European Tour's Rookie of the Year in 1973. "It's great to get into the Open for the first time."

Scot Andrew Coltart, on the same Ryder Cup side as Van de Velde nine years ago, failed in his bid, but the agony belonged to Willett when a chip from beside the 18th green failed to make it up the bank and rolled back to his feet.

The Doncaster golfer has one more chance after receiving a late invitation to play this week's Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, but he will have to finish in the top five there.

Ireland's Philip Walton, Europe's Ryder Cup hero in 1995 and now 46, finished top at West Lancashire three ahead of Scotland's Barry Hume, while 20-year-old English amateur Tom Sherreard and club professional Jon Bevan tied for first place at Southport and Ainsdale.

Playoffs were needed to decided the remaining spots at both courses, however.

Walton, no longer a cardholder on the European Tour, followed up a level-par 72 with a 70.

"This is one great course -- the best links I've played," he said. "They still talk to me about the Ryder Cup in Ireland, but it's a long time ago and I'm looking forward to next week."

Sherreard, runner-up in the British Boys Championship four years ago, said after his 69: "I'm pleased I held it together."

Australian amateur Scott Arnold, who led after an opening 66, fell away with a 78, while Scotland's Raymond Russell, fourth at Birkdale along with Justin Rose in 1998, failed to earn a return after rounds of 75 and 79.

Bevan made it through for the third successive time and last year at Carnoustie made the halfway cut.

Copyright 2008 PA Sport. All rights reserved.

©2008 PGA/Turner Sports Interactive. All Rights Reserved.
Turner Entertainment Digital is part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Digital Network