Open: Scotland’s Paul Lawrie remains in the hunt

Scotland's Paul Lawrie on the 17th hole. Picture: Jane Barlow
Scotland's Paul Lawrie on the 17th hole. Picture: Jane Barlow
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HE may need help from his 16-year-old son when it comes to certain things on a mobile phone but Paul Lawrie certainly knows how it works for social media.

The Aberdonian is big on Twitter and was on there during a ten-and-a-half hour weather delay that will see the 144th Open Championship become only the second in the event’s history to finish on a Monday. One of his followers drew Lawrie’s attention to a golf magazine’s preview for the tournament that included a slur about him winning at Carnoustie in 1999. “Paul Lawrie was handed his silver jug on a silver platter,” it claimed. Responding to the tweet about it, Lawrie wrote: “Read that type of crap for years” and used the hashtag “nameonjug”.

Sitting third here, just two shots behind leader Dustin Johnson, the 46-year-old has given himself a chance to become a multiple Open winner and get the credit he finally deserves rather than having to put up with people reading everything into what happened to Frenchman Jean van de Velde at the 72nd hole rather than the Scot coming from ten shots behind in the final round. “Come on, I mean it’s 16 years ago,” said Lawrie after finishing his second round at the third attempt, having started it on Friday evening, playing a hole yesterday morning before play was suspended due to high winds then completing it after play finally resumed again at 6pm. “Give us a break. I mean, it gets a wee bit monotonous after a while. But that was a particularly poor article in my opinion. Now and again you are going to get boys who want to write something and create a bit of controversy about you, but you move on. No big deal.”

It will be a big deal – a huge one, in fact – if Johnson loses this event by a shot, as was the case when he three-putted from 12 feet on the final green to be pipped by Jordan Spieth in the US Open at Chambers Bay last month. During the 32 minutes of play before the hooter sounded yesterday as winds gusted up to 40mph, the American dropped a shot at the 14th. It was caused by the wind blowing his golf ball off the green almost to where it started. “I went up to mark it and my coin was about to hit the ground when it took off,” he said. “Then I went to mark it again and it took off again.” Around the same time, a similar thing was happening to South African Louis Oosthuizen and when the hooter sounded to stop play, Johnson’s playing partner, Grand-Slam chasing Jordan Spieth was heard on TV telling an official: “We shouldn’t have been out there in the first place.”

In hindsight, Peter Dawson, who is in charge of his last Open as the R&A’s chief executive, admitted that may well have been true, the problems having been caused by a sudden rise in wind strengths just after play had started at 7am. At least, they did the right thing thereafter by not rushing to get the action under way action, frustrating as though it may have been for thousands of spectators as Mother Nature took revenge on the event’s organisers for pulling a fast one by introducing a two-tee start for the first time in the event’s history on the same day last year and getting play finished before an almighty deluge hit Royal Liverpool.

After a fair bit of prompting in his post-round press conference, Johnson eventually admitted to being a “little pissed” by the circumstances of that dropped shot in the morning. But it’s not something he was dwelling on, that’s for sure. “I can’t do anything to change it,” said the 31-year-old after adding a 69 to his opening 65 to sit on ten-under-par, leading by one at the halfway stage from Englishman Danny Willett, with Lawrie a further shot back in third.

After waiting patiently, fans got to see around three hours of golf. It included a hole-in-one – from Englishman Daniel Brooks at the 11th – and a terrific Scottish style-shot from Johnson that found the green at the Road Hole from the left rough. “I managed to make some good pars and then birdie the last hole,” said the leader of the three holes he played at the end of the day.

While a tad disappointed that he didn’t get up and down from pin high at the last to move alongside Willett, who’d completed his second round on Friday, Lawrie was delighted to hole testing par putts at the four previous holes after the restart. “One of the most important things we do is being able to grind it out so those putts are hugely important if you’re going to win tournaments,” he said.

On what lies ahead over the next two days - he has fellow Scot Marc Warren, sitting a shot behind, also flying the Saltire – Lawrie added: “There’s a long way to go and, if you start getting ahead of yourself, you start making mistakes and tripping up. But I know I’m swinging good and I’m certainly putting better.”

While admitting he’d been “mad” with himself for having five three-putts in his 72 to sit joint-14th on five-under, Spieth insisted he can still add this title to his Masters and US Open victories this season. “If I can shoot something like ten-under in the last two rounds, I still think I’ll have a chance to win,” said the 21-year-old.

The event’s first Monday finish since Seve Ballesteros claimed the last of his three wins at Royal Lytham in 1988 will hit the R&A hard in the pocket. People who bought a daily ticket at £80 yesterday will get a 60 per cent refund as well as a full refund for parking. An adult ticket for tomorrow’s final round has been set at £10. The cost of staging an extra day will be significant. “It has been a tough and frustrating day for everyone,” admitted Dawson. “But there is nothing in the weather forecast to give us any more problems – hopefully not famous last words – and we will return to normal Open mode, although crowning the Champion Golfer of the Year a day later than normal.”