Paul Lawrie set to clock up his 500th Tour appearance
REJUVENATED Paul Lawrie will join an exclusive golfing band later this week when he becomes only the 22nd player to clock up 500 appearances on the European Tour.
The Aberdonian, who is set to reach the career milestone in the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain, will be only the second major winner after former Masters champion Ian Woosnam to earn membership of the illustrious group.
However, the 1999 Open champion will have three Scots for company in his new club, joining Sam Torrance, who holds the European Tour record with 706 appearances, Gordon Brand Jnr (597) and Colin Montgomerie (570).
To mark the special occasion, Lawrie was yesterday presented with an engraved ice bucket by Keith Waters, the European Tour’s chief operating officer, at Finca Cortesin, where the Scot has been drawn in the same group as Swede Peter Hanson and Colombian Camilo Villegas for this week’s £2.1 million event, which starts on Friday.
“When I turned pro at 17 as a five handicap in 1986 and then got to play with these boys each week – anything that happened after that was a bonus,” said Lawrie, who made his European Tour debut 20 years ago in the 1992 Johnnie Walker Asian Classic, winning his first of seven titles four years later in the Open Catalonia.
“I think that’s helped me, longevity‑wise. I still see it as, ‘I can’t believe I’m out here winning and competing’. I still enjoy playing. I think I play more for fun now than I used to do with my sons (Craig and Michael) coming up and being good golfers. I think playing with them is a help. “About three or four years ago, I thought I might just scale this down a bit and play a little bit less. Then the boys got pretty keen into golf and I started playing a bit more at home and I’ve kicked on a bit again.”
He certainly has, following up a splendid second place behind Spaniard Alvaro Quiros in the season-ending Dubai World Championship last December by winning the Qatar Masters for a second time in February. Helped by those performances, Lawrie is currently sitting 41st in the world rankings.
“I can see me getting to 600 appearances now,” added the 43-year-old. “To get to 700, where Sam is at, is a huge number. Playing for 40 years is just an incredible record. I think we’ll leave Sam at the top for a while. I don’t think I’m in danger of overtaking him but I’d like to get to 600.”
Lawrie emerged from a nine- year spell without a European Tour victory when he won the Andalucía Open last April. Earlier this season he passed the €10 million career earnings mark and now his No 1 target is to try and bridge a 13-year gap by securing a Ryder Cup return in Chicago later this year.
“If I get in the Ryder Cup, it would be the biggest achievement of my career, so that’s the motivation,” he said. “I really want to play on that team. It would be huge for me. I’m 43, but I feel like there is a wee bit left in the tank yet.”
Lawrie, who takes on three-time PGA Tour winner Villegas in his opening match in the group stage on Friday morning, missed the cut in the Spanish Open a fortnight ago, but is hoping a session with his coach, Inchmarlo-based Andrew Locke, has sorted him out again for a run that also takes in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Wales Open at Celtic Manor.
“Andrew said it all looked fine but maybe the changeover was a little quick, which makes sense as I’ve been hooking it a bit.
“So I have been working on being a bit slower at the top,” said Lawrie.
Meanwhile, Open champion Darren Clarke has been drawn alongside English duo Justin Rose and Robert Rock in the group stages of this week’s event near Marbella. Clarke’s slide to 70th in the world meant he was one of the eight “outsiders” in the 24-man field drawn alongside the top 16 seeded players.
Defending champion Ian Poulter now knows he will have to take on young English compatriot Tom Lewis as well as Australian John Senden.
Lewis led The Open as an amateur at Royal St George’s last July and then won the Portugal Masters on only his third start as a professional. It was a victory which earned him his place in this week’s event.
Richard Finch, whose third-place finish at the China Open last month got him in as top two Branden Grace and Nicolas Colsaerts were already qualified, is the lowest-ranked player in the field at 218th in the world. The Yorkshireman will meet top seed Martin Kaymer, the other member of the world’s top 10 present.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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