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The safe shot would have been an iron off the tee, another iron to stay short of the Barry Burn, a wedge to the green. Playing with flair, Van de Velde smashed a tee shot that sailed so far right that it stayed out of the winding burn and found a good lie in the rough, so good that he had reason to go for the green with a 2-iron.

Leonard had been in the group ahead of Van de Velde, and the Texan figured his chances ended when he hit into the burn and made a superb up-and-down for bogey to finish at 6-over 290. He was signing his card when the travesty unfolded.

“I was in a little trailer that has a couple of rooms to it,” Leonard said. “Someone said, ‘You might want to come watch this.’ He missed it right of the burn and was in the fairway, basically. I said, ‘Wow, that was lucky.’ Then he hits the grandstand. And that was unlucky.”

Van de Velde had 189 yards to the green. His only concern was going too far left of the green and out-of-bounds. It sailed right again, which should have been no problem. If it hits the bleachers, or goes into the bleachers, he would have had a free drop. Instead, it hit a tiny rail and caromed back across the green, into rough so deep Van de Velde had no shot.

“What are the odds of that one hitting the stands and coming back to there?” Nick Faldo said. “That’s a million-to-one.”

This was the one.

Van de Velde studied his options, none of which were appealing. It would have seemed prudent to hack out sideways to the fairway, but there was no guarantee he could find short grass, and then he might still have a miserable lie and a burn between him and the green.

“You had to be there to appreciate how bad it was,” Parry said. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Van de Velde ultimately decided to hack it out over the burn, but the ball tumbled into the shallow creek.

Well, it was shallow at the time.

The tragedy turned into a comedy when Van de Velde walked around the fairway to the other side of the burn, then decided he might have a shot out of the stream. He removed his shoes and socks, rolled up his navy blue slacks to his knees and stepped into the chilly water. The tide was coming in, and when he got to his ball, the shot no longer looked possible.

Van de Velde stood there, hands on hip, a wedge dangling in his hand, grinning.

“When he hit it in there, the ball was sitting up out of the water,” Parry said. If he had gone straight to the ball, instead of walking around to the other side, he would have had a chance.”

Instead, he had to take a penalty drop into more rough. That was his fourth stroke.

Leonard remained in the trailer.

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