The Open: Paul Lawrie insists no Love rift over 1999 Open remark
IT HAD the makings of a frosty handshake. Davis Love, after all, was the man who claimed “Carnoustie had got the champion it deserved” when Paul Lawrie came from nowhere on the last day 13 years ago to claim the Claret Jug.
So, while the R&A’s decision to move Tiger Woods away from his ‘traditional’ 9.09am tee time for the opening round this week was the first thing that jumped out when the draw was released, Lawrie being paired with Love wasn’t far behind.
When they step on to the first tee at 8.31am tomorrow, however, there will be no ill-feeling on the Scot’s part. According to him, the hatchet was buried long ago.
“There was never any ill feeling on my part,” said Lawrie after arriving in Lancashire yesterday morning after flying down from Aberdeen. “Davis came over to me on the putting green at Troon in 2004, when there were some reports in the paper again about what he had allegedly said.
“He came over and said, ‘I just need you to know that I never said that. I wouldn’t say that about a fellow pro. I don’t know where that came from – but I’m telling you straight to your face that I never said it’. That was good enough for me. I’ve not got a problem with him at all. We’ve played together since and he’s a great lad.”
Rather than being a problem for him – Tim Clark, the South African who won the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond in 2005, is the other player – Lawrie reckons he’s got a “good draw”.
It’s also a chance for him to show Love, the American captain, that he’ll be a strong member of the European team if he makes this year’s Ryder Cup at Medinah. “I’m planning to see him later in the year. But whether that happens, we don’t know,” he added.
While some players have been moaning and groaning about the thick rough lining the Lytham fairways, Lawrie wasn’t adding his voice to the chorus. He won’t be grumbling either if the weather turns nasty. It wasn’t exactly a typical summer’s day that Sunday in 1999 and he’ll get on with it no matter what the conditions are here.
“I don’t think anyone wants to see bad weather – you want to see sunshine, ideally. But, if it’s nasty then, it’s nasty – there’s not much you can do about it,” observed the world No 31 who heads into this Open as Scotland’s top-ranked player for the first time in his career.
“It is what it is. There’s not much you can do. If it’s low scoring and the course is easy, that’s what it is. If it’s tough and level par is going to be a good score, that’s what you deal with.
“It’s the same for everyone and you should just get on with it. The Open is always the best week of the year, regardless of the conditions.
“I’ve read a few reports from players saying the rough is brutal, unplayable, all that. But it is what it is. It’s not going to change now, so you have to get on with it. You just have to hit it a bit straighter. That’s the plan.”
Sore as it was, Lawrie accepted his fate in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, where he missed the cut. He left the Inverness course bemoaning his putting but is feeling happier about that again after some hard graft at home in Aberdeen over the past few days. “I did a lot of putting after last week. I got back on the chalk line because my putting was pretty poor at the Scottish Open,” he added. “I hit the ball really nicely in Inverness but the putting was horrendous, especially on the Friday – I scored three-under with 33 putts.
“I can’t really play any better than I did that day. Eight-under would have been a fair score for how I hit the ball. But sometimes you just don’t putt well. I’ve spent a long weekend hitting a lot of putts and it will hopefully be better this week.
“I knew what I was doing wrong, coming out of putts and missing them right a lot – just being a bit too keen to see them going in, I suppose. I just worked on keeping the head down a bit longer in the stroke and it feels better.”
One bonus for Lawrie last week was that he stayed in third spot on the European points list for the Ryder Cup, Italian Francesco Molinari missing out on a chance to go above the Scot when he lost in a play-off to Jeev Milkha Singh.
Twelve months ago, Lawrie made the cut at Sandwich but was disappointed to finish down in a tie for 66th. He’s setting his sights a lot higher this time.
“I wouldn’t say I’m in any better position this year than any other because, if you remember, I was playing well this time last year – I won in Malaga and was having a good run. I just played really poorly at St George’s.
“This is my favourite form of golf, links golf, with the weather and the need to be a bit more strategic to avoid the bunkers. I feel it is my best chance to do well but my record is pretty poor – apart from winning it. So every year I turn up just trying to improve on my record.
“I don’t put any extra pressure on myself this week. I put pressure on myself every week – I did that in Qatar and I won, so it doesn’t make any difference. You are under pressure every week because, when you play poorly, people criticise you and have a go. It’s the same at every tournament, not just The Open.
“But this is my favourite form of golf, which makes it surprising that my record isn’t the best. It’s not the worst – but I’d like it a bit better.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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