AS TWO of his Ryder Cup team-mates secured a share of the halfway lead in the Qatar Masters, Paul Lawrie’s Doha defence ended in disappointment after “probably the worst putting display ever” saw him miss the cut by a single shot.
A two-times winner of the event, the Aberdonian joined Race to Dubai leader Scott Jamieson as well as World Cup-winning team-mates Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren in making an early exit from the second event on the European Tour’s “Gulf Swing”.
While Spaniard Sergio Garcia, one of Lawrie’s playing partners, took route 66 to move into a four-way tie for the lead on nine-under, the Scot found himself heading home after a second-successive 72 that included a four-putt double-bogey.
The 44-year-old’s two-round total was eight strokes more than the same stage last year, when he went on to record an impressive four-shot success in an event reduced to 54 holes due to bad weather.
Also playing with Open champion Ernie Els, Lawrie got off to a flying start to his second round but, after covering his first three holes in four-under, the birdies dried up.
He dropped a shot at the 12th, but the main damage to his card came three holes later. A long birdie attempt from the front fringe finished 3 ft from the flag and he three-putted from there before missing a 6 ft chance to survive on the last.
“I hit it fantastic today, but it was probably the worst putting display ever,” declared Lawrie afterwards. “I had 34 putts for 72, which is horrendous. But the good news is my ball-striking was awesome. I could easily have shot eight or nine-under, but missed the cut by one – unbelievable.”
The former Open champion also bemoaned poor putting despite opening his 2013 campaign by finishing joint seventh in the Volvo Golf Champions in Durban, South Africa before suffering more frustration on the greens in last week’s HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship.
Having opted not to play in the Dubai Desert Classic, he’ll now spend the next three weeks trying to get his short stick working again in time for next month’s WGC Accenture Match Play in Arizona, where he reached the last 16 a year ago.
Jamieson, who finished first, third and second in his opening three events to set the early pace in this season’s Race to Dubai, will almost certainly lose top spot on Sunday after he made a premature exit for the second week running in the Middle East.
A second-round 77 left him alongside Montgomerie (79) on seven-over, while Warren, who undid an opening 69 by taking eight shots more second time around, finished three strokes above the cut mark on three over.
On a positive note, six Scots progressed to the final two rounds, although Peter Whiteford, who started the day in joint-second, slipped to into a share of 20th spot after a 73 – seven more than his first effort.
Craig Lee, the top Scot in Abu Dhabi last weekend, secured a second successive payday when a 69 lifted him into a tie for 42nd on three-under, while Chris Doak (71), Stephen Gallacher (71), David Drysdale (71) and Scott Henry (74) all squeezed through on the cut mark.
At the business end of the leaderboard, Garcia shares top spot with Martin Kaymer, Marcus Fraser and Ricardo Santos after the Spaniard stepped up his challenge for the £261,000 top prize with his six-under salvo – the best of the day.
Garcia underwent laser eye surgery to correct astigmatism following the Ryder Cup win at Medinah in September and finished 2012 with a round of 61 for a three-shot win at the Johor Open in Malaysia.
“It was nice – I definitely felt I played a little bit better than yesterday,” said the 32-year-old after signing for six birdies in a flawless display. “I would have loved to hit a couple of shots better, but I gave myself a lot of chances and I can’t be disappointed. The wind started picking up a bit and it made it tough to choose the right clubs. We tried to play smart and managed to do that fairly nicely.”
Kaymer, who holed the putt at Medinah that retained the Ryder Cup for Europe before winning the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa at the end of last season, matched Aussie Fraser’s 67, while overnight leader and on-form Portuguese Santos posted a 70.
Els, bidding to repeat his 2005 finish, scraped through along with the posse of Scots on one-under but the hopes of three Ryder Cup captains all ended up buried in the desert as Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul McGinley joined Montgomerie on the list of casualties.
For the first time in five visits to Doha, Justin Rose avoided that fate and, lying just four strokes off the lead in joint 20th, the world No 5 will be aiming to make up for the disappointment of being pipped for last week’s title in Abu Dhabi after taking a two-shot lead into the final round.