Lancaster Pulls A Van de Velde

All Neal Lancaster had to do on the 72nd hole of the 2002 PGA Canadian Open was get a bogey. Holding a two-stroke lead over Justin Leonard and John Rollins before starting the par-4 18th, Lancaster, found the fairway with his drive and looked to be in good shape.

But the journeyman pro, who’d missed only two greens all day, couldn’t find the final putting surface, his second shot landing 35 yards left of the flag in thick rough behind a bunker. “I pretty much thought the golf tournament was over if I could make just one decent swing,” Lancaster said of this thoughts while lining up his second shot in the 18th fairway. “(But) I made a horrible swing.”

He chipped onto the green and into a valley, watching the ball roll 40 feet past the pin. He still needed only two putts to win for the first time since 1994, a stretch of 265 tournaments without a victory. But Lancaster’s fourth shot went 4 feet by, and the comebacker slid by on the right side. A double-bogey, the worst possible outcome for a player who was in control of the Canadian Open from the get-go.

Stunned, Lancaster bowed his head and rubbed the back of his neck. This was not the best time to get his first three-putt of the tournament. Lancaster’s final-round 72 – following steady and spectacular rounds of 66, 67, 67 over the first 54 holes – put him in a three-way tie with Rollins and Leonard at 16 under par on the par-72, 7,372-yard Angus Glen Golf Club’s South Course in Markham, Ontario.

Rollins won the tournament – and the first-place check of $720,000 – on the first playoff hole, rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt that almost seemed anticlimatic. A downcast Lancaster, whose potential winnings were cut in half by his shoddy play on 18, earned $352,000 for his second-place tie with Leonard. Afterward, a glum Lancaster said, “I guess I know how Jean-Claude van Damme feels, or whatever his name is. I blew the tournament. I gave it away on the final hole.”

It was Jean Van de Velde who produced one of golf’s biggest collapses when he triple-bogied the 72nd hole at Carnoustie that cost him the British Open, won by Paul Lawrie. Rollins played the role of Lawrie in this year’s Canadian Open, saying simply of Lancaster’s undoing and the unexpected playoff, “It’s amazing.”