On This Day

  • July 18 down the years

The biggest car crash in golf history

Amir Khan was too quick for Andriy Kotelnik at the MEN Arena in Manchester © Getty Images
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2009
The night Amir Khan became world champion. At the MEN Arena in Manchester, he won easily on points to take the WBA light-welterweight title from Andriy Kotelnik of the Ukraine. Keeping his hands high to protect his chin after a first-round knockout the previous year, Khan took the early rounds with body punches, and his workrate was always too high for Kotelnik, who was nine years older and couldn't find the big punch he needed. He maintained his record of never having been stopped, but Khan was deservedly champion at 22.

1999
The French Follies. Also known as the Jean Van de Velde Show. The biggest car crash in golf history. Carnoustie was a beast that year. Some really tough rough led to high scores all round. The winning score in the British Open was six shots over par, and there were casualties all over the battlefield. Unknown Rod Pampling led after the first round with a level-par 71, only to shoot 86 in the second and become the first first-round leader in the history of the Open to miss the cut. Meanwhile a certain 33-year-old Frenchman shot excellent middle rounds of 68 and 70 to lead by five shots going into the last. At the final hole, he was three ahead and needed only a double-bogey six to win the Open. The rest was televised meltdown. Instead of playing safe, Van de Velde took a driver from the tee. He landed in the rough on the right. A simple lay-up would have left him short of the dreaded Barry Burn. No, he was still going for glory. His two-iron hit the grandstand and bounced back across the Burn into deep heather. He hacked his way out of that - straight into the Burn itself. When he went down into the water and practised hitting his way out of it, Peter Alliss nearly lost it in the commentary box. Even Van de Velde had to see sense at last. He took a penalty stroke - then found a bunker! A very good shot got him to within seven feet, and he kept his cool for once. He'd taken seven shots at the last. Paul Lawrie, who'd been ten behind Van de Velde at the start of the day, came through with a marvellous 67, then won the four-hole play-off by three strokes from Van de Velde and former champion Justin Leonard. Lawrie was the first golfer born in Scotland to win the British Open since 1931 (5 June) and the only qualifier to win the event since pre-qualifying was introduced after 1963. He played a record 112 holes in all. Poor Van de Velde won lot of hearts but never a Major.

A rather more successful golfer was born in 1957. Nick Faldo in Welwyn Garden City. He began as a bit of a boy wonder, then had the nous and humility to spend three years remodelling his game. After that, he was the world's best golfer for ten years, winning the British Open and Masters three times each. He was good at keeping his head while others were losing theirs: most of his Major wins owed something to other players' mistakes, including the Masters in 1989 (9 April) and 1996 (14 April) and the British Open in 1987, when he parred every single hole in the last round, and 1992 (both 19 July). Faldo set Ryder Cup records that still stand by appearing in the event 11 times, playing 46 matches, winning 23, and scoring 25 points. He was in the European team that the Cup back after many years in 1987 (15 September). He won the European Order of Merit twice, the World Matchplay in 1989 and 1992, and the World Cup with David Carter in 1998. He wasn't vulnerable enough to be Britain's best-loved golfer, but you can live with that when you're one the country's most successful sportsmen.

In any normal year, Faldo would have won the British Open for a fourth time in 1993 - on his birthday, too. He defended the title superbly, equalling the record for any Major with a second-round 63 and finishing on 269, 11 under par - only for Greg Norman to come good in a last round for once. His first three weren't too shabby - 66, 68, 69 - but now he put together the kind of brilliant 64 he was always capable of. Norman's total of 269 was another Majors record at the time. In a tournament of low scores, Ernie Els shot under 70 in every round but finished only sixth. Payne Stewart matched Faldo's record with 63 on the last day.

In 1988 Seve Ballesteros won the British Open for the third time and a Major for the fifth and last. Again Faldo was the defending champion, again he was beaten by a dazzling last round, this time after rain washed out the whole of saturday's play. Ballesteros, on the same Lytham course where he'd won the Open in 1979 (21 July), came through with a 65 that beat Faldo by six shots and overhauled Nick Price to win by two. Like Faldo, Ballesteros never won the US Open or US PGA, but five Majors did justice to his talent.

In 2010 South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen held off his rivals to win the Open Championship by seven strokes at St Andrews. The world No. 54 led by four shots heading into the final day, and he produced another impressive round to finish on 16-over for the tournament. Victory made Oosthuizen the fourth South African to win the event, and it was his maiden major title. Even more impressively, Oosthuizen had never made the cut in three previous Open appearances.

1995
Jonathan Edwards set his first world record in the triple jump. At Salamanca in Spain, he jumped one centimetre further than the 17.97 metres set by Willie Banks ten years earlier. Edwards broke the 18-metre barrier on 7 August.

1998
Chris Eubank's last pro fight was the only one he didn't finish. After his unbeaten record and WBO super-middleweight title were taken by Steve Collins in 1995 (18 March), Eubank lost as many fights as he won. Four of each, including defeats in his last three. He gave Joe Calzaghe a good run for the vacant title after being knocked down in the first round, then lost to cruiserweight champion Carl Thompson after flooring him in the fourth. The rematch tonight was equally tight until the ringside doctor stopped it in the 9th when Eubank's left eye closed up completely.

1903
The first ever Tour de France came to an end. Henri Desgrange set the first official world record for distance cycled in an hour (11 May 1893). Ten years later, he was director and chief editor of the sports paper L'Auto - and helped set up the Tour to boost its profits. A circuit of France had already been completed by cars in 1899, and a couple of cyclists had been round the country four years before that, but never in a major race. So riders were going off into the unknown - and only 15 entered the Tour originally. So Desgrange halved the distance and entry fee, increased the prize money, and allowed expenses of five francs a day. By the time the event started on 1 July, there were 78 entries. Only a third of them reached the finish. The race was essentially six one-day Classics end to end. With so few stages, they were all very long, beginning with 467 kilometres from Paris to Lyon. All this on dusty bumpy roads in burning sun and strong winds. You couldn't count the punctures and falls and the riders who lost their way. And there were no proper cycling shorts, so saddle sores were worse than the fatigue. The race was won by the favourite Maurice Garin (born 3 March 1871). Only 5' 3, with (apologies) a handlebar moustache, he'd won major races in 1901 and 1902. But here he was lucky that one of his main rivals was forced out by stomach pains during the first stage. With a name like Hyppolite Aucouturier, you should be a clothes designer rather than a cyclist, but he won the second and third stages despite having officially dropped out. With every competitor riding for himself, the gaps between them were enormous, simply inconceivable nowadays. Garin's margin of victory is still the widest in the history of the race: less than a minute under three hours. The lanterne rouge, the name given to the last to finish the race, was Arsène Millocheau, who arrived nearly 65 hours behind the winner! Garin finished first again the following year (23 July), but the first four finishers were disqualified for alleged irregularities in a race notorious for violence by spectators against riders...

2009
Rugby union flanker George Smith played his 100th match for Australia. It wasn't his favourite. Against South Africa in Cape Town, Australia led 7-0 with a converted try in the first minute, but fell foul of the referee and lost 29-17. Morné Steyn kicked seven penalty goals, and Smith was one of three Australians sent to the sin bin.

1970
Husband and wife Howard and Rosemary Payne won Commonwealth Games gold on the same day. Howard, born in Rhodesia but representing England, won the hammer throw for the third Games in a row. Rosemary, born in Scotland, won the discus. She was 37, Howard 39. They both wore glasses while competing, both set Games records, and both won silver four years later. Another married couple also won gold medals in 1970 (23 July).

1930
No-one saved more match points in a major tennis match than Wilmer Allison. A fortnight earlier, he'd reached the Wimbledon singles final against an ageing giant (5 July). Today he faced a lesser light, but a light that shone on clay, whereas Allison's game was better suited to grass. In a Davis Cup match between the USA and Italy in Paris, every set between Allison and Giorgio De Stefani was hard fought and drawn out. Allison lost the first two 6-4 9-7, won the third 6-4, then recovered from 5-2 down in the fourth and 5-1 in the last. A despairing De Stefani had an amazing 18 match points before losing 10-8. The USA won the tie 4-1.

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