HE may finally have been able to fit a Ryder Cup parade around Pittodrie into his hectic schedulde but, since last hitting a blow in anger, Paul Lawrie has spent much of his time hitting putt after putt on the indoor green at his home in Aberdeen.
The former Open champion isn’t one of those who spends hour after hour fretting over the welter of statistics that are part of modern-day professional golf, but his performance on the greens in the first three events of the year were difficult to ignore.
“I played nicely all three weeks (in the Volvo Golf Champions, Abu Dhabi Championship and his defence of the Qatar Masters) and could easily have won one of the events. From tee to green I really got it going but I putted horrendously,” said Lawrie. “In Durban, where I finished seventh, I was 33rd out of 33 in the putting stats. I was then 68th out of 70 in Abu Dhabi and 119th out of 124 in Qatar.”
The way Lawrie played last season, winning twice on the European Tour as he earned a Ryder Cup return after a 13-year absence, suggested he holed every putt he looked at. The 44-year-old said that wasn’t the case, though.
“Even last year I was struggling with my putting,” he added ahead of this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain in Arizona. “Not as bad as those three weeks, admittedly, but I got away with it because the rest of my game was so good. I had a session with (putting guru) Phil Kenyon in Qatar and he showed me a video and there was a loop in my putting stroke – it wasn’t nearly as straight back and through as it should be.
“I’ve worked hard on the putting mat in my house over the last three weeks. It feels a lot better and hopefully that will prove to be the case at the Match Play, where the greens are normally nice and fast.
“I know people might be getting fed up of hearing me moaning about my putting but I like to be honest and there’s no point me saying something when it’s not true. I always thought I was a good putter and years ago when I finished ninth and tenth on the Order of Merit I was 14th and 15th in the standings. I’m 100-odd at the minute.”
Lawrie, who has Stephen Gallacher and Richie Ramsay for company in the desert this week, reached the third round 12 months ago, beating Justin Rose and Ryo Ishikawa before losing to Martin Laird in an all-Scottish last-16 tie.
“I really enjoyed this event last year,” said Lawrie, who is heading to Houston next week for company days with two of his sponsors, Pentagon Freight and Hunting, before moving on to Florida for the WGC-Cadillac Championship in a fortnight’s time. “It’s a good match-play course. You have to be well off line to find the penal stuff and you can make a lot of birdies on it. On the back nine there’s a driveable par-4, for instance, and a couple of reachable par-5s.
“These two WGC events are huge – they carry combined prize-money of $17.5 million – and I’m looking forward to them. I’m rested and feel my putting is better. If not, it certainly won’t be down to lack of effort over the past three weeks.”
Lawrie, a mad-keen Aberdeen fan, took the Ryder Cup along to Pittodrie for last weekend’s SPL clash against St Mirren. “The only other time I’d done it was with the Claret Jug and I thought it was important to do it with the Ryder Cup as well,” he said.
“I originally intended to go out into the centre circle but a couple of people tweeted saying that they hoped I’d be showing it round the whole of the stadium so that’s what I did. I stopped every now and again to let people take pictures and it was just fantastic. I got a great reception from everyone, including the St Mirren fans, and I loved it as it meant a lot to me.
“I’d only played in one Ryder Cup before and you forget how big it is. In terms of the build up and the media attention, I’d probably say it is even bigger now than the majors.”
A place in the team for next year’s match at Gleneagles is firmly in Lawrie’s sights and Gallacher, too, now after he jumped to 58th in the world on the back of winning in Dubai a fortnight ago.
“If you are serious about getting into the Ryder Cup team – and Stephen is – then you need to be in the world’s top 50. It would be almost impossible to get into the team without that being the case,” said Lawrie, who was due to play a practice round with his compatriot today.