IT WAS a blow Paul Lawrie was prepared to take on the chin. He certainly wasn’t expecting to open his 2014 campaign with an 80 – his worst first-round score in a European Tour event since 2005.
At the same time, though, he didn’t think returning to form after a disappointing 2013 campaign was going to be as easy as flicking a switch. Or, for that matter, putting a new driver in his bag.
Missing the cut in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, as Lawrie did quite comfortably, despite signing off with a brace of birdies to trim seven shots off that opening effort, was certainly not in the script. “I didn’t see that coming, especially yesterday,” he confessed.
But, instead of beating himself up, the 1999 Open champion will beat more golf balls on the range before trying again next week in the Qatar Masters, an event he won for the second time two years ago.
“Hell, 80, it’s one of the worst scores I’ve ever shot,” he groaned. “I really struggled and drove the ball awful – you just can’t do that with the way they have the course set up.
“I hit only four fairways, nine greens and had 33 putts on day one, but today I actually played quite nicely, hitting some good shots.
“I didn’t tee up on Thursday thinking I was going to rip it and hole every putt. You are never sure what is going to happen in your first round of the season.
“Normally, I come out and compete early in a new season but then it might not be a bad thing. It can be like a wake-up to dust yourself down and just get on with it.”
In addition to joint leader Craig Lee, Marc Warren, Colin Montgomerie, Stephen Gallacher and Peter Whiteford are all still standing after the halfway cut.
Joint fourth alongside Lee heading out, Warren’s 73 slipped him into a share of 22nd alongside Montgomerie after his four-under 68 that included three 2s.
“I can’t,” replied the 50-year-old to being reminded that he felt courses such as this one are too long for him. “I’m doing everything to score 68. It’s a struggle, but we’re getting there.”
Montgomerie played with Jose Maria Olazabal, another former Ryder Cup captain, for the opening two days, and reported the Spaniard had produced a Seve Ballesteros-style performance to make the cut on level-par. “It’s unbelievable,” declared Montgomerie. “He hit the pin at the sixth out of a bunker to make par, he almost holed it at the seventh for a par, 240 yards to go for his third at eight and made par, and then he hit it in the water at the ninth, which isn’t in play! I mean 50 yards right, then chips in for par. Seve would have been proud of him.”
Gallacher (73) made it comfortably on one-under while Whiteford, in his first outing since starting to work with Gary Nicol, covered his last ten holes in three-under to survive on the mark after a 70.