Forget Michael Fish or some flashy 3D maps of Britain, when it comes to the weather at this week's Open championship, there is only one man truly in the know.

Jean Van de Velde will be the first to learn of any change in the conditions at St Andrews - courtesy of the bits of metal in his knee.

Van de Velde has undergone two bouts of reconstructive surgery on his right knee and as recently as last October was unable to walk more than a few yards and feared he may never play golf again.

The popular Frenchman relied on invites to play on tour this season but secured his card for next year with a dramatic second place in the French Open three weeks ago.

"I have a screw and pin in the knee and I can feel the change of weather," he said. "The final day of the French Open was very stormy and humid and straight away I had discomfort."

Leading by one shot playing the final hole in Paris, he drove into water on his way to a bogey five, allowing compatriot and defending champion Jean-Francois Remesy to draw level.

In the play-off both players found water on the same hole before Remesy holed out for a double-bogey with Van de Velde still ten feet away in six.

At the 1999 Open at Carnoustie Van de Velde waded around in the Barry Burn in front of the 18th green on his way to a triple bogey seven, squandering a three-shot lead before losing out to Paul Lawrie in a play-off.

But second place was enough to guarantee his playing privileges for 2006 and secure his place at St Andrews, the first time since 2001 he has made it to the Open.

The 39-year-old said: "It feels great to have this ( player's) badge, the last three years I had one saying TV on it. It was a nice present following the French to realise that I was in the Open.

"I have to look at it this way. Last October I could not walk to go and buy a newspaper and in France I gave myself a chance to win.

"On Sunday my leg was extremely sore because of the change of weather. I surprised myself, I didn't think I would be able to hold it together that well.

"Everybody wants to win but if you put yourself in position eventually you will win.

"There's not going to be water on every 18th all the time. If I hit it in the water on the 18th here, it's time to do something else!"

Van de Velde is still troubled by the knee on occasions, revealing it had popped out of the joint while hitting balls on the driving range on Tuesday.

He said: "When I push, the top part of the leg goes ahead of the bottom part, and you can hear a big plonk when it comes back. My caddie said 'What the hell was that?"'

But he feels confident of putting on a good showing over the Old Course, which he knows well from representing France in the Dunhill Cup.

"I love the golf course, I've always liked it here and it hasn't changed," he added. "The fact it's the Open makes it even more special. I know my way around it. I'm not going to find any excuses there.

"If my game shows the same form that it was at the French Open you never know what can happen, that's the beauty about golf. I wouldn't be here if I didn't feel I was capable of competing.

"My main priority was to get my card back within a period of 18 months and I got it in a period of two months.

"Next year I've got a job so I feel relieved about that but the more important thing is I feel relief that I'm capable of playing without having pain in the leg. If I can pace myself and maintain the level of fitness I need, I should be fine."