Thanks to reader Chris for noticing this unusually fun writing from Mark Reason in the Daily Telegraph. Reason was covering the bizarre events at the French Open and filed this story on July 2.
Michael Campbell was leading the French Open by three strokes standing on the 17th tee. Half an hour later he had hit three drives, lost one ball, had another kicked by a lady in a pink hat, had a third mistakenly picked up by his partner's caddie, received more rulings than handed down by an entire session of the House of Lords, and finished the hole by putting out twice. It was beyond strange.And this made me cringe...the dreaded "didn't fit their eye" which, I understand usually does some have truth to it, but still...
The sequence started when Campbell slashed his opening drive wildly to the right. Initially he thought he had found it in bounds, but it turned out to be neither his ball nor in bounds. So back to the tee he went and carved the ball away for a second time. Thinking that this, too, was out of bounds, he then pulled a provisional drive into the rough on the left.
In fact Campbell's second ball had careened into the tents and hit a lady on the knee. Her first touch was not the best, so she chased after the ball, flicked it with her right foot, brought it under control with her left and then ran upfield with her blouse mercifully not pulled over her head. By the time the ball had finished rolling it was back in bounds.
Many of the top players claim that Golf National, one of the top courses on the circuit, doesn't "fit their eye". It must certainly come as a shock to be playing a course that doesn't allow them to wallop their driver 100 yards west into Frau Schmidt's cucumber frame and then claim a free drop under that week's local rule. But the colossal prize money - 666,660 euros to the winner - has attracted one of the best fields of the season and even the last-place prize money would be more than Barry Jaeckel would have earned for winning the French Open in 1972.
"Barry who?" you may well ask, but the 50-something-year-old Jaeckel turned out to be a cove. He once walked off the course in the middle of a tournament for no apparent reason. He says: "I just short circuited, I felt very crowded." The son of Richard Jaeckel, an accidental character actor who made countless films from the Sands of Iwo Jima with John Wayne to The Dirty Dozen, Barry opted for a life in golf because there were too many "strange" people in films. Jaeckel's final drive of the French Open was a vicious duck hook that was heading for a wasteland of gorse and water. He stormed off the tee quite oblivious to the fact that one of his playing partners was anxious to hit a provisional. His partner waved the ball at Jaeckel's back, then smiled, shrugged and started walking himself. Strange.And saving the best for last...
Bobby Clampett was another welcome diversion from the tour's usual diet of white-trousered Swede. Some may remember that Clampett, something of a "phenom" in his youth, once led the Open by seven shots after five holes of the third round. He then exploded, perhaps afraid of his own theory that "with great players there is almost something wrong with them."
But here Clampett was in France, his youthful curls going much the same way as Art Garfunkel's, his ball striking still a joy to watch. Unfortunately his putting can resemble a form of electric shock treatment. Clampett is sponsored by Yes Golf - "no other putter in the world is as accurate".
The problem is that the static from Clampett's hair combined with his self-confessed excitement at this amazing product rendered his putter as useful as a lightning rod.