Practice made perfect for Paul Lawrie as he rolled back the years to put himself in pole position for a third victory in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Lawrie’s first win in Qatar came in 1999, the same year as his Open triumph at Carnoustie, with the second in 2012 helping him secure a Ryder Cup return at Medinah after an absence of 13 years.
The 47-year-old also won the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2012 and, although he has not tasted victory on the European Tour since, a second round of 66 at Doha Golf Club gave him the clubhouse lead on 11 under par, two shots ahead of France’s Gregory Bourdy and England’s Andrew Johnston.
A putting tip from fellow Scot Marc Warren after missing the cut in Abu Dhabi last week proved crucial, Lawrie said: “He said the same as everyone else: my putting stroke is too long, it needs to be a little shorter and a little quicker. So I’ve been working on it the last couple days and it certainly feels as though I’ve got it.”
Starting on the back nine, Lawrie birdied the tenth and 12th before dropping just his second shot of the week on the 15th, but bounced back with birdies on the 16th and 18th to reach the turn in 33. With the wind forecast to strengthen during the day, the early starters knew they needed to take advantage of the better conditions and Lawrie did just that, carding birdies on the fourth, seventh and ninth.
Johnston recovered from a double bogey on the third to card a 69, while Bourdy’s 68 featured a hole-in-one on the eighth, the first in the history of the event.
“It’s always nice to get a hole in one,” said Bourdy, who holed out with a six iron from 183 yards. “It’s my third on Tour. I missed a few birdies before the eighth and then straight in with a six iron, so it was like two birdies straight.
“Having to play at 6.40, I think was a good thing this morning. It was not so hard. I think it was blowing a little harder [on Wednesday] and we could feel at the end, the last few holes, it was blowing a little bit more.”
Former champion Sergio Garcia, Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Sweden’s Pelle Edberg were a shot further back on eight under, with Garcia adding a 66 to his opening 70 despite again missing a number of good birdie chances. The world No 12 partially made amends by holing a curling putt from 40 feet on the eighth, which drew some exuberant celebrations from the 36-year-old, who was asked if they were new dance moves.
“Well, I don’t know if they were dance moves. They were like jabs,” Garcia joked.
“When we got to the ninth tee I said to my caddie and to the guys that celebration I think is going to look a little bit funny on TV.
“Probably from the 17th hole onward, I hit six really good putts that looked like they were going in and they didn’t. I ended up making a bomb on eight, but obviously it could have been a little bit better.”