20 July 2007

Curse of the Claret Jug

Cool feet, chokes, and vertigo at The Open Championship

In 1875 Tom Morris Jr., the first name to be engraved on The Claret Jug, was playing in an exhibition with his father against Willie and Mungo Park. Combined, the four men won the The Claret Jug 13 of the first 15 times. During that match Tom Morris Jr., was informed that his pregnant wife was rushed to the hospital. Tom hurried to her bedside but she died along with their unborn baby. Tom never recovered from this tragedy and died later that year. The Claret Jug was never won by any of the four men again.

Flash forward to the year 1991 at Royal Birkdale. Ian Baker-Finch, a relatively unknown golfer, easily won the Open. After suffering from many injuries following that glorious victory, Baker-Finch went 31 straight PGA tournaments without making a penny. He took some time off to reflect on his life. In 1997, Baker-Finch thought he had his groove back and entered The British Open at Royal Troon. In the opening round Baker-Finch shot a career ending 92. He was only 35. He is now a successful golf commentator.

David Duval, who was destined to be one of the greatest golfers of his time, won the the 2001 Open at Royal Lythams & St. Annes. Personal demons and vertigo and a variety of injuries led him into a five year plunge into the abyss. Recently he had some good rounds and was tied for 16th at the 2006 US Open.

The curse of the Claret Jug also affects the nicest of nice people in the weirdest of weird ways. At the age of 44, Roberto de Vicenzo from Argentina, outlasted Jack Nicklaus to win the 1967 Open at Hoylake, England. The following year, de Vincenzo ended tied with Bob Goalby at the 1968 Masters. Tommy Aaron, who was playing with de Vincenzo wrote a 4 instead of a birdie 3 on the 17th hole on de Vincenzo's card. The Argentinean, in his excitement, signed the card without checking and was relegated to second place. De Vincenzo stated that that mistake helped his career and introduced a famous quote by him, "What a stupid I am!"

Greg Norman, who won The British Open twice, has become known as the unluckiest potential major winner. His classic Sunday failures and remarkable losses to Larry Mize, who chipped in from 45 yards to win the Masters on the second playoff hole and, to Bob Tway who sunk a great bunker shot to win the PGA championship in 1986 has definitely shown him to be cursed as he never won another major. His most infamous flop happened at the 1996 Masters, when was leading by 6 strokes going into the final round and ended up losing by 5 strokes to Nick Faldo.

Nick Faldo, a 3 time Jug winner has had 3 illfated marriages. One jealous ex-girlfriend took out her frustrations, with a golf club, on Faldo's Porche.

This weekend The Open Championship returns to Carnoustie. In 1999, It was nicknamed "Carnasty" because of its difficulty and was the site of the most famous final hole meltdown. Jean Van de Velde was leading by three and needed a double bogey to win. A series of fatal decisions made him finish with a triple bogey and became another victim of the curse of the Claret Jug. He did however sink a clutch putt to at least play in a playoff with Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard. The Local Scotsman, Lawrie ended up winning. I personally, admire Van de Velde for the way he handled himself after this debacle. To make fun of his brain freeze,in an infomercial, he played the 18th hole in the middle of winter with only a putter and managed to get a six on his third try.

Recent news has surfaced that Jean Van de Velde will not be attending this years event at Carnoustie because of a stomach ailment. Coincidence, or is the 136th Open at Carnoustie proof that the Claret Jug is indeed cursed. To add another fact, I think, my hero, Jean Van de Velde should be OK because he did not win the coveted but cursed Claret.

Will Tiger escape the curse? We will know by 7 p.m. Greenwich GMT or 3 a.m. Japan time.

All information was researched on wikipedia. Articles by Peter Dixon, Bob Harig and The Official British Open Homepage inspired me to investigate the curse.

Willy Badger, 20 July 2007

About Willy
Willy Badger is an entertainer living in Gunma, Japan. He enjoys playing golf sometimes.

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