Jean Van de Velde's shocking collapse at the British Open left much of France bemoaning what one newspaper called "the cold cruelty" of golf.
The little-known Frenchman had a seemingly insurmountable three-stroke lead going into the 18th hole Sunday but hit a series of disastrous shots that led to a four-hole playoff. Scotland's Paul Lawrie, who started the day 10 strokes back, ended up winning in the greatest comeback in the history of major championships.
L'Equipe, the national sports daily and France's most widely circulated newspaper, featured a photo of Van de Velde on its cover and a back-page article titled, "And The Monster Ate Him," a reference to the brutal course in Carnoustie, Scotland.
"Do we have the right to give up our childhood dreams?" the story began. "In one hole (Van de Velde) demonstrated both the intense beauty and the cold cruelty of this sport. "
"Seventy-one holes and one moment of distraction. Two hundred and eighty-eight strokes to live, two more to die. And that says it all."
"Le Figaro" carried an article called "Panache at Half Mast," saying Van de Velde wanted to "tempt the devil. And he landed in hell."
The daily Liberation, nonetheless, hailed Van de Velde for "holding his club high so well, so long on British soil" -- longer than any other Frenchman.
French athletes are having a rough couple of weeks. No Frenchman has yet won a stage in this year's Tour de France.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed