Scottish Open: Lawrie, Laird eye bragging rights

Scottish golfer Paul Lawrie. Picture: SNS

Scottish golfer Paul Lawrie. Picture: SNS

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PAUL Lawrie is the “daddy” in more ways than one. For instance, he is in a group that will see him set out in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open with Matteo Manassero and Thorbjorn Olesen, two of the leading lights in the European Tour’s new wave of young, exciting talent.

As the country’s top-ranked player, Lawrie is also the current “daddy” of Scottish golf, though with Martin Laird breathing down his neck, a change in the pecking order could be on the cards by the time the final putt drops in the Open Championship at Muirfield on Sunday week.

Lying 29th at the end last season, when he won twice on the European Tour, Lawrie has slipped to 49th – ten places above Laird, the man who ended Colin Montgomerie’s long reign as Scottish No 1 by establishing himself as a force on the PGA Tour.

“It means a lot to me to be the highest Scot in the world rankings, but I’d like to be the best Scottish player higher up the rankings,” declared Lawrie as the 44-year-old Aberdonian prepared to lead a 19-strong Tartan Army into battle on the banks of the Moray Firth. “We need someone to be higher than 49th. The fact we’ve also got ten players in The Open next week, which is better than the numbers we’ve had recently, shows others are starting to produce better performances and I’m working hard every day to get better myself.”

As part of a pre-event charity fund-raiser, both Lawrie and Laird wore tartan trews yesterday along with some of their fellow competitors in the Highlands, including defending champion Jeev Milkha Singh and Belgian Nicolas-Colsaerts.

Having shed around a stone-and-a-half since cutting down his meal portions and resisting the temptation of ice-cream and chocolate, Lawrie, proudly boasting a 34-inch waist, fitted comfortably into his black and white pair from the Ian Poulter Collection.

Laird, though, admitted his more colourful choice was a tad on the tight side as a result of the South Carolina-based player having indulged himself on a rare visit home by tucking into a hearty Scottish breakfast yesterday morning.

“I definitely put on a little bit of weight over these two weeks enjoying the food I don’t get when I’m in America,” said Laird. “This morning I had a full Scottish breakfast, which is novelty for me now because I’m not here very much. I had it all, including fried haggis, and these trousers were definitely a bit tight.”

Lawrie described his form as “sketchy” and his fitness as “not great”. But these are the two weeks on the calendar that really get his juices flowing. “I enjoy them and they are very important to me,” he said after receiving the Winning Scotland Foundation 2012 award. “I would like to be there or thereabouts in one of the two events, if not both.”

Sharing those aspirations, Laird said: “My game is in a good spot right now and, if I can make a few putts this week, I don’t see why I can’t be up there with a chance to win.”

Scots safely through to matchplay

Scotland’s Men’s and Boys’ sides last night both sealed their places in the top-eight matchplay stage of their respective European Team Championships, each comfortably qualifying at Murcar Links and in Denmark respectively.

Despite late team changes which saw Bradley Neil replace Muirfield Open-bound Grant Forrest in the Men’s side and Ben Kinsley called into the Boys’ group, the Scots will contest the quarter-finals at each 16-team event. The Scots – led by captain Scott Knowles and coach Neil Marr – posted an 11-over par total for their 36 holes of individual stroke play to qualify in third place, three shots behind England and six behind top qualifiers Italy.

Meanwhile, at the demanding layout of Silkeborg in Denmark, Ian Rae’s charges finished in fifth place, recording a 24-over-par total for their 36 holes. France qualified in top spot on 15-over.

The head-to-head matchplay matches consist of two foursomes games followed by five singles matches.

MARVIN COLLINS

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