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17 October 2014

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Paul Lawrie wins the 1999 Open

Paul Lawrie

© SNSpix

Carnoustie has long been recognised as one of Scotland's top golf courses but owing to the lack of infrastructure in the area - few hotels and inadequate access routes - the Open had not been held over the famous Tayside links since 1975. On that occasion Tom Watson won the first of his five Open titles and for many years it looked as if he would be the last “Carnoustie champion”. However with the necessary improvements made, the tournament was to return to what many consider the hardest of all Open venues in 1999.

After years of American domination, European golfers were now winning Major titles with regularity and a “home” success at Carnoustie would come as no surprise. Even so, few were predicting that Aberdonian Paul Lawrie, despite having two European Tour titles to his name, including success in the Qatar Masters earlier in the year, would be the man to claim the title!

Yet after one of the most dramatic endings in the illustrious 139 year history of the Open Lawrie, ranked 159 in the world and a 100-1 outsider when the tournament teed off, was lifting the coveted Claret Jug on the Sunday evening.

The week had not been without it's controversy.

Accusations (mainly, it must be said from disgruntled Americans) that the R&A and Head Green-keeper John Philp had combined to make the course too tough were denied by the governing body, but it's beyond dispute that the course was exceptionally difficult, with landing areas on some fairways down to 15 yards in width.

Few players were able to break, or even match, the par of 71 in the first three rounds, but despite the relatively high scoring, the scene was set for a dramatic last day.

Perhaps even more than “Paul Lawrie”, the name of Jean van de Velde will be associated with the 1999 Open Championship. The Frenchman was a comparative unknown in the golf world, yet as the only man to equal par, he led the tournament after three rounds, with Lawrie trailing some ten strokes back.

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