Golf: Paul Lawrie living up to five-star billing so far
THE extra special treatment at the plush Perthshire resort is normally reserved for past winners of the Johnnie Walker Championship. Paul Lawrie got one of the five-star suites at Gleneagles this week without having achieved the feat, but he’s working on it.
Feeling that a weight has been lifted from his shoulders after securing a Ryder Cup spot earlier this week, the free-wheeling Aberdonian is firmly in contention at the halfway stage, having followed up an opening 68 with a 69 for a seven-under-par two-round total. As he battled to stay in one of the automatic spots for the European team that will head to Medinah next month, Lawrie admitted he’d started to feel “grumpy”. He’s now smiling again now, though. Yesterday, he even celebrated one holed putt –it was for an eagle-3 at the ninth, admittedly – with a fist pump.
His accommodation here is a measure of how much Lawrie’s stock has risen again in world golf over the past 12 months. He’s not exactly had to slum it at the Perthshire resort in the past, but he’s certainly enjoying the VIP treatment this week. “They’ve always looked after me here, putting me up in the hotel, but this year I’m in the Whisky Suite, which is very nice indeed,” he said with a contented smile. “I don’t know why that is, but it is very nice of them.”
If he can keep up his form from the opening two days, the 43-year-old will be back in one of those suites as the defending champion in 12 months’ time. Starting his second round at 11th, he opened with a birdie, then picked up two more before stuttering a bit in the middle, dropping shots at the first - his ninth – and second. “We were in between clubs at the first and (caddie) Davey (Kenny) wanted me to hit a wedge short of the pin and I saw a 9-iron,” reported the former Open champion. “I went with the 9 and hit it long into a little gully – that was my mistake.”
It was repaired in style with that late eagle, which was set up by a 3-wood from 270 yards to 20 feet at the ninth, a hole that has been improved immeasurably along with the 18th following the changes made to the course by Jack Nicklaus in the countdown to the 2014 Ryder Cup. “I played well again,” admitted Lawrie, who is tucked in just behind Mark Foster and Richard Finch, trailing the Englishman by a shot along with Australian Brett Rumford (70). “Apart from those two holes, it’s been 34 good holes, so I can’t complain really.”
Lawrie was bitterly disappointed after missing the cut in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart last month. After a promising start, he was then let down by his putter in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham. “I’ve been working with the putting arc again,” he said of an improved display with the flat stick here. “The greens are also better, there’s no question about that, so a combination of both has helped my putting this week.”
Lawrie makes no secret of the fact that a Scottish Open win would probably give him more satisfaction than anything else he could achieve during the rest of his career. A victory at Gleneagles, though, would be sweet, too, and could boost his chances of leading that European Ryder Cup team in two years’ time, having been touted as a possible captain on home soil. “It’s good to put up a show in any tournament in Scotland,” said the man who, in addition to his success at Carnoustie, also triumphed at St Andrews in the 2001 Dunhill Links Championship. “It would be good if I could play well over the weekend and win.”
Foster, though, is a man on a mission himself. He led after the opening round 12 months ago and shared top spot heading into the final circuit. He eventually lost in a marathon play-off won by Thomas Bjorn, but the Worksop man is back in the mix after a second successive 68.
“It’s a long hitters course and I’m aggressive off the tee,” said the leader, who is returning from a five-week break following a poor performance in the Scottish Open. “I needed to regroup,” he said of that decision. “I took a four-week holiday and practised really hard for one week.”
He was joined in the lead after Finch came in with a 67 late in the day.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, three off the pace after a 70, is still in the hunt for the top-two finish he needs to clinch an automatic Ryder Cup spot, while a logjam on four-under includes Colin Montgomerie (68), Richie Ramsay (71) and Francesco Molinari (72). Fifer Peter Whiteford, requiring a strong finish to the season to hang on to his European card, handed himself a timely boost with 69 to sit on three-under alongside compatriot Gary Orr (67) and Bjorn (71).
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Friday 24 May 2013
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