The Open: Paul Lawrie insists he’s still in the title hunt
IT had to be an American who asked it. “Is it too early to determine if you’ve got too much distance to make up on the leader?” said the voice in the corner.
It confirmed that, in Uncle Sam land at least, they still choose to forget exactly what happened at Carnoustie 13 years ago. They were too caught up in claiming the course was too tough. It’s why they still don’t give Paul Lawrie the credit he deserves for coming from ten shots behind heading into the final round to get his name on the Claret Jug.
The Aberdonian is way too polite to have pointed that out to the individual concerned in the Mixed Zone next to the Royal Lytham clubhouse. His answer, however, left no-one in any doubt that he still feels he’s in the hunt in the 141st Open Championship. Brandt Snedeker’s 64, which Lawrie described as “world class”, has left him with six shots to make up but, with two rounds to go, he knows a lot can still happen over the Lancashire links.
“Brandt has played phenomenal to be ten-under-par, but there’s 36 holes to go,” he replied. “You’ve just got to keep grinding away and doing what you’ve been doing. Hopefully I can shoot a couple of scores under par over the weekend and I still think I’m in there roughly with a chance.”
One behind overnight leader Adam Scott at the outset yesterday, Lawrie moved to six-under when he birdied the short fifth for the second day running, holing a ten-footer this time after chipping in on Thursday. He gave that back with a rough-fuelled bogey at the long seventh, but a second 2 on his card – at the ninth – took him out in 32.
Then, out of nowhere, he ran up two double-bogeys in the space of three holes. At the tenth, he found the thick stuff off the tee then three-putted from around ten feet. At the 12th, his chip came back down the bank after he’d shortsided himself. Almost in a flash, he was back to three-under and you were beginning to wonder if the wheels had come off.
The Scot, however, is made of stern stuff. He’s also playing some of the best golf of his career this year. He dug in over the closing stretch to keep himself in the championship. He birdied the 14th – another one where he’s picked up a shot in each of the opening two rounds – and parred in from there for a not-too-shabby one-over 71 and a four-under total of 136. Tied for fifth, he’s the leading Great British & Irish player along with Graeme McDowell. Understandably, Lawrie was disappointed not to have converted a ten-foot birdie putt on the last but, taking everything into account and the stage he’s competing on, he gave his day’s work pass marks.
“It was a good performance, to be fair,” he commented. “My head was a wee bit scrambled, as you can imagine [after the two double-bogeys]. There was all kinds of stuff going on. To come out of that and play under par from that point in was a good effort. It sets you up and gives you an outside chance at the weekend.”
It rankles Lawrie that he hasn’t given a good account of himself since 1999. Coming here, he’d missed the cut in seven of the 12 events since then. His best finish was tied for 42nd on this same course 11 years ago. Here and now is his opportunity to do something about that. “Apart from ‘99, I’ve not had a chance to win this tournament,” he confessed. “So to go into the weekend lying where I am – as well as the fact I’m feeling confident – gives me a run at it so hopefully I can keep it going.”
He described the three-putt at the tenth as a “shocker” but reckons it was a blip. That apart, the work he put in on his stroke after missing the cut in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart is still holding up. “To be fair, the first putt was a wee bit downhill and a wee bit left-to-right and I just pulled it. For the second one, which was only two-and-a-half or three feet, I was up and out it like last week. But it’s been the only one like that this week. I’m putting nicely.”
He’s also looking at leaderboards all the time. “Every hole,” he replied to being asked how often he liked to see where he was sitting. “People who tell you they don’t, I’m not so sure they’re telling the truth. As you may have seen, they are quite big so it’s quite hard not to look at them.”
The 43-year-old was asked what he’d like for the weekend in terms of weather conditions. The weather forecast, which hasn’t been right once so far this week, is for a 30mph wind tomorrow. “It would be nice if it blew a little bit over the weekend,” he replied to that one. “But the course is so severe you probably don’t want it any windier than we’ve had.
“The scores show you how tough the course is playing. It’s so hard to get the ball in the fairway and you’ve still got a 4 or 5-iron to the green at a par-4 after a good 3-wood off the tee.” While the vast majority of the tongues in the 43,900 spectators out on the course yesterday are English, there was no shortage of them rooting for the Scot. “I’ve had a huge support out there, which is nice,” noted Lawrie. “People have been shouting my name. You’re in contention – you’re a British player playing in the British Open – and people want you to do well.”
He’s also enjoying the post-round interviews. “Man, I’ve never been on ESPN in my life so much,” he commented on emerging from the American channel’s interview cabin.
Of the six that started out, Martin Laird is the only other Scot standing after he made the cut in this event for the first time at his fourth attempt. He got up and down from a greenside bunker to save par at the last, signing for a 69 to sit on one-under for the tournament. “I’m in a good position,” he said, believing that a low score is waiting to happen if his game can just click.
“To be honest, I didn’t play well today. It was a real mix – some good and some terrible,” he added. “But, as my caddie was just saying to me, if I can get my game going over the weekend then a six or seven-under is definitely on as the greens are perfect and balls are stopping on them.”
If the wind blows, however, Laird will settle for anything under par.
“It will go from playing pretty easy to brutal – one of the hardest links you will ever play,” predicted the 29-year-old.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West