Countryman's loss in '99 eventually was Remesy's gain

Near top at 68, Frenchman learned from contention, collapse by Van de Velde

Notebook

British Open

July 19, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

GULLANE, Scotland - Will Jean-Francois Remesy of France become the Jean Van de Velde of the 131st British Open at Muirfield? Or, even better, will he become the Arnaud Massy?

Remesy, 38, hopes to emulate his friend and countryman Van de Velde in some ways, but Massy in one significant way - becoming the first Frenchman to win the Open since Massy in 1907.

With a 3-under-par 68 in yesterday's opening round that tied him for second, Remesy took a significant step in both directions.

Given the history he has learned from Massy's victory - also the only one in the Open by a Frenchman - and the perspective he has learned from Van de Velde's cruel defeat at Carnoustie in 1999, Remesy is patiently awaiting his opportunity.

"I think you've just got to look at the Open as a wonderful meal," Remesy said. "You've got to sit down and savor every mouthful."

Remesy was left with a bitter taste from his professional golf life for a long time. He set the European PGA Tour record for futility by failing to get through qualifying school 12 straight years. He nearly quit after his first two years on the tour produced less than $150,000 in earnings.

On the brink of quitting, Remesy sought the advice of a sports psychologist in Cannes after the 1998 season. It resulted in his first two wins as a pro, the French PGA Championship and his inaugural victory on the European Tour. But it was Van de Velde's stunning failure three years ago that inspired Remesy even more than his own success.

"For us, what happened on the last hole was remarkable - here was a Frenchman in contention for a major championship," Remesy recalled of Van de Velde's infamous triple bogey that cost him a three-shot lead and subsequent playoff to Paul Lawrie. "That was something that changed our outlook. It gave us a big boost."

Remesy is hoping that this year's Open will give his career an equally significant charge. Becoming the first Frenchman to win the tournament since Massy will be the culinary highlight of their country's other nondescript golf history.

The topping on the cake, so to speak.

Rose's game is blooming

If Sandy Lyle and Des Smyth represent some of the glory days of championship golf in the United Kingdom, then Justin Rose is considered part of the promising future.

Lyle, a former Masters champion from Scotland, and Smyth, a former Ryder Cupper from Ireland, have done remarkable things considering their age. That's especially true for Smyth, 49, who became the oldest winner of a European Tour event in history last year.

Rose, 21, is in the midst of a wonderful turnaround, having won four times this year after recovering from a start that saw him miss 21 straight cuts after turning pro in 1998, a day after finishing fourth in the Open at Royal Birkdale. His star is twinkling brightly.

Yesterday, they gave the home fans at Muirfield something to cheer about when each shot 3-under 68 in the opening round.

"I just want to keep doing what I'm doing and that's putting red numbers [for birdies] on the board," said Lyle, 44, whose last victory was in 1992, four years after he won at Augusta. "Whatever it takes, if it's the Par-3 championship, anything for a win would be very nice. It would be a great bonus to win the Open. But there is a long way to go yet."

Smyth nearly didn't make it to the first tee yesterday. He sustained a back injury and leg pains while sleeping in his car in the club's parking lot on Monday after flying here.

"I just love playing the Open," said Smyth, whose best finish was a tie for fourth in 1982 at Royal Troon. "I always did. Maybe I'm not as afraid as I might have been in years gone by. It is enjoyment for me. I think a lot of players who come here looking to win, there's a lot of tension."

That's certainly not the case with Rose. In fact, Rose was confident enough to play a wager at a local betting house that gave him odds saying he couldn't outscore Tiger Woods. Playing with Woods, Rose was two strokes better.

"I made a couple of quid [pounds] on the 18 holes today," said Rose. "I think I got 5-to-2 odds. Outscoring Tiger today doesn't mean a thing for the rest of the tournament. It's just the first day."

1-over, but mood even

Defending champion David Duval didn't seem too bothered by a first-round 1-over 72.

"I'm not upset or mad," Duval said. "I feel I could have had a better score. It could have been easily a few shots better."

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