Eight years ago this week, Jean Van de Velde secured his place in golf infamy when the foolish Frenchman, as he came to be known, suffered a severe case of larynx-tightening on the 72nd hole at Carnoustie and lost the 1999 British Open Championship in spectacular fashion. Van de Velde, a relative unknown, made a painful-to-watch triple-bogey seven on the final hole to blow a three-shot lead, and then lost in a playoff to local boy Paul Lawrie. The PGA Tour returns this week to those hallowed grounds in Scotland, and in remembrance of that bitter, misty Sunday, The Boston Globe ran an online readers’ poll: What was the greatest choke ever?
Despite Van de Velde’s epic throat-constricting in the United Kingdom, the New York Yankees’ unprecedented collapse in the 2004 American League Championship Series took home first prize after 3,600 votes chose from 21 notable chokes. The Bronx Bombers, who became the first team in the history of baseball to lose a 3-0 series lead, garnered an incredible 75.2 percent of the votes. Of course, the majority of people who read the Globe are Massholes, so let’s not pretend they’re objective.
Bill Buckner’s ignominious ’86 folly is currently in second place, with Van de Velde’s gaffe coming in third. But let’s be honest, it’s kind of gratifying to see the French punished for their arrogance every once in a while, so let’s hope Mr. Van de Velde gets a late-afternoon surge. Viva la France.