John Huggan reminds us that Carnoustie is a great golf course, we just couldn't see it under all that rough in 1999. He reviews the event in his Sunday column.
First, this memory from Geoff Ogilvy:
"Then I got up there. It was such a disappointment. Breaking 80 was an unbelievable effort. If there is one course on the rota that doesn't need to be touched at all, it is Carnoustie. And they got lucky. It didn't even blow to any great extent. It was the greenness of the rough that was embarrassing. It looked so cultivated and unnatural. It was bizarre."And on John Philp's contribution to the game...
That it was, the strangeness of the whole situation summed up by the sight of Greg Norman, one of the game's most powerful players, missing the 17th fairway by a foot with his tee-shot, then swinging as hard as he could in a vain effort to move the ball from a lie best described as subterranean. The whole thing was getting silly enough to cause the then 20-year-old Sergio Garcia to burst into tears after an opening round of 89. Less than one month later, it should be noted, the young Spaniard was good enough to finish second in the USPGA Championship.
"If you missed the fairway - any fairway - by even a yard, you were hacking out," remembers Australian Peter O'Malley, one of golf's straightest hitters and the man who hit the opening tee-shot on day one. "We were just lucky the weather wasn't too bad. If it had been really windy no one would have broken 300.
"The set up was really weird. Part of the strategy on any links is avoiding the bunkers. But we couldn't see too many of them because of the rough!"
Most, if not all, of the blame for the craziness was heaped on the head of one John Philp, the head greenkeeper. And it must be said he deserved nearly all of the criticism that rained down on his misguided head. Indeed, the much-maligned Philp did not help himself with a series of public comments seemingly designed to further alienate the world's best golfers.
"Golf is about character and how a player stands up to adversity," he sneered. "But, like a lot of things in life, golf has gone soft.
"Playing this type of course requires imagination and it requires handling frustration.
"I know there is a bit of a lottery in the way this course plays. Top players take badly to bad bounces. But the element of luck is critical.
"Take that away and you don't have a real game of golf. They are too pampered now."
Amidst the fast-accelerating level of complaints, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club claimed that all was well, that the jungle-like rough had been neither fertilised nor excessively watered and that, besides, they had been unable to do anything about it all. The problem, they claimed, was caused solely by the weather immediately preceding the championship.
Except it wasn't of course. Almost three months before the championship, your correspondent had played the Carnoustie course in the annual media gathering hosted by the R&A. After my round I was - funnily enough - standing at the bar in the hotel behind the 18th green waiting to be served. As I did so, the then secretary of the R&A, Sir Michael Bonallack, approached and asked my opinion of the course.
This was fun too...
"There is nothing wrong with having long, wispy rough that introduces doubt in a player," confirms Scotland's Andrew Coltart, who finished in a tie for 18th back in '99. "But long, lush grass only requires us to mindlessly reach for the lob wedge and is just plain daft.
"Eight years ago, the rough was just so thick and looked to me like it had been fertilised. There was no chance to get the ball on the green and no chance even to take a chance, if you see what I mean. I played with Tiger Woods on the last day and even he couldn't hit out of that stuff. So it was boring to play and, I'm sure, to watch. It was drive, chop out, wedge to green."
And Barker Davis, writing for the Sunday Telegraph, offers these remembrances...
The first round I was playing with Greg Norman, and he was playing really well, a couple under or something. On 17 he hit it right, not far right, just a couple of feet off the edge of the fairway and you virtually couldn't see it. He ended up making seven or eight and that summed it up. But I like the course, it's up in my top three with Birkdale and Muirfield.
I remember playing the last couple of holes on Friday just praying to get off the golf course. I was just in a lot of mental pain. There was one tee shot on the fourth that I hooked to the right. I ended up slashing about in the rough for ages. But it's still one of my favourite courses, up there with Kingston Heath in Australia and Royal Lytham.
Hank Gola, New York Daily News
It was like watching a slow-motion car wreck. When Jean Van de Velde went into the Barry Burn and rolled up his pants, it was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. The Frenchman goes up in flames. I remember walking in the play-off with Davis Love III, who was smoking a cigar at the time, and he said they got what they deserved for the set-up.
On the sixth hole I hit a drive and it bounced 90 degrees right and finished in the rough by two inches. From there I couldn't get the fairway back. So I made a drive, my sand iron five times and a putt - seven, double bogey. It was so deep I didn't know if that ball was going to go one yard or 80. But what I remember most is Jean Van de Velde. I was at the airport with Dean Robertson.
We were sitting in the lounge at Edinburgh watching Jean play the last hole.
It was a great moment of golf, like a great tragedy, but it was not very good to know it was a Frenchman. We couldn't believe it. We were speechless. It was crazy that day.
I think I shot 13 over and missed the cut by one. I remember sitting down with a bunch of players and watching the coverage on the Friday afternoon. It was carnage. It was pathetic really. I watched Norman hit it two yards in the rough. I wasn't laughing at the time. I was shaking my head saying: "This is not right, this is not good TV."