Australian Craig Parry knows he blew the best chance he had to win the British Open today, and it was not the least bit difficult to figure out.

Playing with 54-hole leader Jean Van De Velde in the final pairing, Parry played the front side superbly with two birdies and no bogeys as the Frenchman made the turn at 2-over 38, carving Van De Velde's lead down to a stroke as they began.

Parry tied for the lead when he birdied the 10th to Van De Velde's par, then took it by a shot when Van De Velde bogeyed No. 11 and he two-putted for par from 18 feet to stay at 2 over for the tournament.

But the relatively benign 383-yard 12th did him in. He put his drive in high grass to the right, stayed in the rough on his second shot, then moved his ball three feet on his third. He hit his fourth behind the green, chipped to eight feet, then pulled the putt to walk off with a seven and fell to 5 over. Van De Velde bogeyed the 12th, but took the lead anyway.

Asked how he felt after leading, then having it get away so quickly, he shrugged and said, "I think those are private words. There was no comparison to The Masters [when he led after 36] when I was playing with Fred Couples. I know what I've done. I've had a few chances. Hopefully I can do better next year, maybe in the PGA."

Parry also felt great compassion for Van De Velde on the 18th when he made triple bogey.

"I could see him throwing the tournament away. On 18 [after he birdied], I said, `What about you following me into the hole?' "

Legitimate Gripes?

Hugh Campbell, chairman of the tournament's championship committee and the senior official responsible for setting up the course, has admitted that perhaps the severely narrow fairways at Carnoustie this week may have been a mistake.

"On the narrowness of the fairways, I hold my hands up," said Campbell, whose course set-up has been criticized by a number of players, including Greg Norman, David Duval and Payne Stewart. "By the time we realized there might be a problem, it was too late to do anything about it. We went to the U.S. Open and when we came back, the rough had shot up and it was almost a different golf course.

"I don't think it's unfair. Tough, yes, but not unfair. We said in April if the weather was subtropical, the Open might be won by a score of 10 under, and if the wind really blew, the winning score could be 10 over. Given the weather we've had, perhaps the fairways have been too narrow in parts."

Earlier in the week, John Philip, the course superintendent, said he did not appreciate the complaining.

"Players are pampered nowadays," he said. "They have their gurus all helping them out and they get their courtesy cars taking them everywhere. There is an ego problem here. They want a good payday with as little hassle as possible. Well sorry, Jimmy, this is the Open, the tournament, the big exam."

A wet spring left fairways rather lush and the greens soft. Philip said he feared that those conditions, along with putting surfaces easy to read, could lead to scores that would damage the course's reputation as among the most testing in the world.

Ryder Cup for Lawrie

Paul Lawrie's playoff victory guarantees him of making his first Ryder Cup team. The British Open victory was only the third win of his European Tour career and also guarantees him a place in next year's Masters.

"I didn't know about The Masters until an official told me when I finished my round. I've always wanted to play at Augusta. I'm 30, but I feel my career is just starting. I feel I can compete with the big guys now."

Making the playoff also boosted Justin Leonard's chances of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team.