Paul Lawrie has gone from “100 per cent no” to admitting he’s got a “bit of thinking to do” over the 2018 Ryder Cup captaincy. Deep down, he’s convinced he wouldn’t get the job in Paris, and he might be right. Well done, though, to Sam Torrance and, in particular, Andrew “Chubby” Chandler for at least convincing the Aberdonian that he shouldn’t dismiss the possibility without giving it proper consideration.
Speaking at Hazeltine last month after the pair had been among Darren Clarke’s vice-captains, Torrance, the winning skipper in 2002 and veteran of 12 Ryder Cups in total, predicted Lawrie would “definitely captain” Europe at some stage.
Chandler, another man who knows the game inside out, having been a European Tour player himself before becoming manager to the likes of Clarke, Lee Westwood and Danny Willett, has now told the 47-year-old he should at least be tossing his hat into the ring for the next match, even though Thomas Bjorn looks to be a strong favourite.
Lawrie normally hates spending more than five hours on a golf course, but last Wednesday’s Turkish Airlines Open pro-am in Belek definitely proved to be an exception. Chandler, after all, was one of his playing partners and the pair had a right old chinwag on the way round the Regnum Carya course. Chandler later admitted he’d had no idea how much Lawrie puts back into the game through his foundation in the north-east. He’d earlier revealed that he’d gone out of his way to secure the Scot’s invitation for the first of this season’s Final Series events because “he’s never had the credit he deserves for his achievements on the golf course”.
There’s genuine respect there and it was fascinating to hear what Chandler, who, please bear in mind, isn’t speaking here about one of the players on his books in this instance, had to say to Lawrie about the Ryder Cup captaincy, a position, that has been held by three Scots alone in the last 20-odd years.
“We had played only two or three holes on Wednesday and he hung back on one tee and he said, ‘are you going to go for it?’,” revealed Lawrie. “I said ‘no’ and he said, ‘why is that?’ I said, ‘I’ve been a vice-captain only once. They are not going to give it to someone who only been a vice-captain once’. But he said, ‘nonsense’. I said to him that I’d read the other day that you needed the respect of all the players to be the captain. And he said, ‘you’ve got that in abundance’. So he was almost sort of saying that I should go for it.
“But I don’t know. The main reason is that I feel 100 per cent that I can play in it in 2018 in France. It’s a big stretch from where I am now. I can understand that people will go, ‘come on, give yourself a shake.’ But I’ve done it before when I was worse than I am now [he’s 379th in the world], and I made it in 2012. It doesn’t take an awful lot for me to get on a run, hole some putts and the confidence comes back.
“I honestly don’t think they would give it [the captaincy] to me. But there seem to be a lot of people who think differently. Bjorn is favourite right now. Half the job is to be able to speak, to the players especially. I’m not knocking [Miguel Angel] Jimenez, but his normal tongue is not English. So it’s got to be difficult for him.
“Chubby then made a really good point when he said that you’ve only to get three votes. It’s not as though you’ve got to convince 50 or 60 people. You’ve got to convince only the three previous captains that you’re capable of being the captain. My mind was 100 per cent no, and then I thought, oh ‘maybe it’s kinda not so sure’. I’ve got a bit of thinking to do. I think I would enjoy it. All the bits you need to be good at, speaking, you can practice that. I’m just not 100 per cent sure that I’ve got the total respect of the top players, but maybe that’s just the way I see it.”
Why the devil – and I say this with all due respect to Bjorn, who, in addition to having been a vice-captain four times, has done an excellent job for his players as the European Tour’s tournament committee chairman – shouldn’t Lawrie put his name forward? He’s a major winner, after all, having also chalked up seven other European Tour victories spanning 20 years.
Even now, he has a hunger and determination that players half his age sometimes give the impression they lack. Yes, he’s only been a vice-captain once before, but just imagine what he learned about the Ryder Cup as a player at Brookline and Medinah, two of the most dramatic matches in the event’s history.
Listen to Sam and Chubby, Paul, and put your name in the frame.