THE fact he said three times that it wasn’t a “slagging” session indicated that he didn’t want to spark a European Tour war of words. Paul Lawrie had a point to make, however, and he got it across loud and clear in his press conference at the £3.1 million Dunhill Links Championship starting today.
On a cold St Andrews morning, the Aberdonian admitted he felt hot under the collar over the decision by the top six Great Britain & Ireland players in the world rankings – Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter – to snub next week’s Seve Trophy match against continental Europe in Paris. Their decision, which comes exactly a year after the sextet all played roles in the Ryder Cup “Miracle at Medinah” that was partly inspired by Ballesteros, with his iconic logo on the bags and trademark colours being worn for the final-day fightback, has worked in Lawrie’s favour.
Having a team drawn from further down the global standings means Lawrie will be among four Scots, joining Scott Jamieson, Stephen Gallacher and Marc Warren in a GB&I team led by Sam Torrance at St Nom La Breteche, where the event will be overseen by Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley as part of his preparation for next year’s match at Gleneagles.
While McGinley is adamant he’s not too concerned about the absence of such a stellar group of players – all six are in the world’s top 20 – Lawrie, a heart-on-the sleeve type, described the situation as “extremely disappointing” and revealed the lengths he’d go to play in an event in honour of European golf’s most inspirational figure. “I’m not slagging them off or having a go at them as it’s up to these guys to decide on their own schedule but I don’t understand why so many of our boys are not playing an event that has Seve’s name attached to it and the idea behind the tournament is the equivalent of the Presidents Cup for the Americans.”
“You get handsomely paid to play in it as well [the Seve Trophy carries a prize fund of £1.5 million with only 20 players involved] and I think it is disappointing for everyone involved in it, including the European Tour, who have done a great job putting it on, and Seve and his family,” added the 1999 Open champion. “It’s Seve’s name. I mean, my God, most of us are out here playing because of what he did years ago. You’d have to ask the players that are not playing why that is. I assume it’s a scheduling thing, I don’t know. It’s the end of a long season and it could well be one week too many.
“It’s not my job to slag these boys off on why they are not here and I’m not slagging them off. It’s just disappointing they are not playing. If they all played, I wouldn’t have got a game, which would have been okay with me because you want two teams going each other at full strength.
“As it is, these guys are not playing and I’m getting a game, which I’m delighted about. I’d walk to Paris to play on that team next week. Whatever it would have taken, I’d have done it. You’re representing GB&I. You’re representing Seve, who started it all off for us. Everyone’s different but, personally, I would never turn down playing in that.”
According to Martin Kaymer, who did exactly that, along with the likes of Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia, by opting out of the European team led by Jose Maria Olazabal, it was a decision he found “easy” due to a combination of scheduling and form.
“I’ve played a lot of tournaments recently and there are some very, very important ones coming up,” said the German, who has played on the last two Ryder Cups and holed the putt to retain the trophy 12 months ago in Chicago.
“I can’t play every week because then you enter tournaments feeling only 80 per cent and that’s not fair on either myself, my caddie or the people I work with.”
Asked if he felt Seve’s name on a trophy could convince certain individuals to play, the 2010 Dunhill Links winner added: “Definitely but, unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of meeting him.
“Jose Maria asked me earlier in the season if I could play. I said, ‘I would like to play, but let me figure out my schedule first’. However, I haven’t been satisfied with my form this season, so that’s why I need to focus on myself right now. I can’t do the best for the team at the moment and I’m sure other people are more motivated to play. It’s certainly nothing to do with me not liking Seve.”
Torrance has only two players – Lawrie and Paul Casey –with Ryder Cup experience in his team next week compared to five – Thomas Bjorn, Nicolas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Francesco Molinari – in Olazabal’s ranks.
But the Scot insisted: “The debutants [Gallacher, Tommy Fleetwood and Simon Khan] are very strong and I think we have got a good blend of players in the team.”