Craig Lawrie eyes ‘unbelievable’ Open appearance at Carnoustie

Connor Syme his hoping that Tim Poyser, a former caddie master at The Renaissance Club, can be his secret weapon in Open Final Qualifying at the East Lothian venue. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Connor Syme his hoping that Tim Poyser, a former caddie master at The Renaissance Club, can be his secret weapon in Open Final Qualifying at the East Lothian venue. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Craig Lawrie is relishing the prospect of trying to ease dad Paul’s disappointment about missing a return to Carnoustie in a fortnight’s time by seeing him tee up in the 147th Open Championship.

Lawrie jnr is among 72 hopfuls vying for three spots in Tuesday’s final qualifying event at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian, having already come through the regional phase at Panmure last week.

That success came on the same day that Paul, the 1999 winner at Carnoustie, announced he’d be sitting out the game’s oldest major for the first time since 1997 after shutting down his season due to back and foot injuries.

“It’s the first time I’ve entered the Open qualifying and I couldn’t not give it a go with the event being at Carnoustie this year,” said 23-year-old Lawrie jnr after completing his preparations for the 36-hole shoot-out.

“I played lovely at Panmure last week and my game is getting better and better. I struggled at the start of the year with my ball-striking, but it’s getting there now.

“It would be amazing if I could make it to Carnoustie. It’s a shame that my dad has pulled out and for me to play in an Open there, it probably wouldn’t get any better than that. It would be unbelievable.

“I’ve just got to go out and take it shot by shot and see what happens. I’m not going to put any pressure on myself. I will just try to play my own game.”

Lawrie jnr is also playing in this weekend’s qualifier at Longniddry for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at Gullane and has a PGA EuroPro Tour event at Longhirst Hall in Northumberland in between.

“It’s a busy week but hopefully it will be a great one if I can get into both The Open and the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open,” he added.

The field for the event’s first staging at The Renaissance Club has been weakened by the withdrawals of World Cup winners Marc Warren and Soren Kjeldsen along with American trio Julian Suri, Harold Varner and Chase Koepka.

However, the hopefuls still include recent Shot Clock Masters runner-up Connor Syme, who is hoping to repeat his success 12 months ago ao Gailes Links in Ayrshire, where he tied for top spot with Suri.

“I’m ecstatic to be playing in this event,” said the 22-year-old. “I wouldn’t say it’s a negative being here, but it was only going to be possible if I’d missed the cut in the French Open, as I did.

“While that was disappointing, it was good to have this as an option and it’s an added bonus for me that my caddie, Tim Poyser, has been the caddie master here, so it will be great to have his knowledge of the course out there.

“A good friend, Russell Smith, is also the director of golf here, and it has a good feel to it. I’m looking forward to getting out there tomorrow.”

Syme’s confidence soared after making his major debut at Royal Birkdale last summer, recording top-15 finishes in his first two starts as a pro before securing his European Tour card at the end-of-year Qualifying School in Spain.

“Last year set up a good run of form for me and it would brilliant if I could repeat last year’s success in this event,” he added. “It’s not going to be easy as it’s a strong field and just three spots but hopefully I can have a good rock at it again.

“It was a brilliant experience to pass this test 12 months ago and playing in The Open kicked me on. That definitely helped me with the pro transition.”

Others teeing it up on the East Lothian coast include local man Grant Forrest, who is hoping to secure an second Open appearance after also passing this test in 2013 to play at Muirfield.

Liam Johnston, who has been shining along with Forrest on the Challenge Tour this season, is also in the field, as are Bob MacIntyre, Ewen Ferguson, Peter Whiteford and Duncan Stewart.

For another hopeful, Neil Henderson, it’s a home event and he’ll be hoping to reproduce the form that saw him card a 59 over the Tom Doak-designed course in a bounce game earlier in the year.

Amateurs bidding to secure a dream major appearance in Angus include Alister Hain (St Andrews), Stuart Blair (Royal Musselburgh), Simon Fairburn (Torwoodlee) and Sam Locke (Stonehaven).

Believed to be on the radar as a future venue for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, The Renaissance Club is in fabulous condition, with its pristine fairways flanked by long wispy.

“This is a really good track,” observed Syme. “I’d played it a few times but this is probably the first time in peak summer. The rough is a bit higher and it looks great visually off the tee.

“My dad was down last week when the greens were still a bit slow but they’ve got them just below 10 on the stimpmeter, which is great.”

Elsewhere, Anglo-Scot Ryan Lumsden, who qualified for the recent US Open, is aiming to repeat that feat in the season’s third major at Prince’s in Kent.

He no longer has double US Open champion Retief Goosen among his rivals but another US Open winner, Graeme McDowell, is in the line up at St Anne’s Old Links in Lancashire.

The fourth shoot-out in an event involving a total of 288 players takes place at Notts (Hollinwell), where Alasdair Hay, a Scot who plays out of Royal Winchester, is in the field.