HE IS the top Scot in the field and just five shots off the lead, but Paul Lawrie didn’t exactly bound off the 18th green with a spring in his step and a song in his heart at Gullane yesterday.
After matching Thursday’s opening 67 with more of the same yesterday, the 1999 Open champion kept himself well in contention at six-under going into the weekend.
However, frustration was the Aberdonian’s primary emotion after a round in which he felt he had left a few birdies out on the course. A front nine containing four birdies and a single bogey gave way to a more becalmed inward half which consisted of nine consecutive pars. A couple of birdie putts, including a near-miss at the 16th, slipped past and Lawrie was more in the mood for rueful reflection than rejoicing come the end.
“I played the same, to be fair, and felt as if I two-putted every green today,” he said. “I know I didn’t but I’m just a bit frustrated with the putting. I’m hitting a lot of good putts that are just not going in.
“I’m putting nicely as well, they’re just not going in and I’m so grumpy, I can’t help it out there. You just get so frustrated. People are shouting ‘smile’ at you but it’s the last thing I’m going to be doing out there when I’m missing putts, so it’s quite difficult. I was rather grumpy today.
“It’s still a decent score, but when the weather’s like that, three-under’s not that great round here, to be fair. But we’re not that far behind, so it’s no disaster.”
Part of Lawrie’s frustration at what, on the surface, looks like a decent couple of days at the office, stems from his burning desire to add the Scottish Open to that Claret Jug triumph 16 years ago.
He said he felt no less pressure this year given that, unlike 12 months ago, the tournament was not being held in his hometown, never mind homeland. “I don’t feel any different [to last year] to be honest,” said the 46-year-old. “I didn’t put any extra pressure on myself last year because it was Royal Aberdeen, because I put that on myself every week.
“I feel as though I should have a chance the way I swing it and the way I play, so this year is no different really. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d like to win this tournament before I pack it in, so every year’s the same no matter where it is.”
While Lawrie is the leading Scot, a shot ahead of Russell Knox, the round of the day from a home player came from David Drysdale, whose superb 65 lifted him to four-under following an opening 71 and was just the tonic after what has been a troubled season so far.
The 40-year-old from Cockburnspath in Berwickshire, just a half-hour’s drive down the east coast, is coached by Jamie Gough – brother of former Rangers and Scotland captain Richard – and was delighted with his day’s work after missing 11 cuts in 2015.
“I’ve been playing absolutely crap for the last two or three months, really rotten,” he admitted.
‘But I’ve been working with my coach Jamie Gough, very hard to come up with a solution to wayward golf shots.
“I hit a lot of balls after the round yesterday, tweaked a couple of things, and today it was miles better – just one poor tee shot all day.”
He can look forward to basking in plenty of local support today and tomorrow, and added: “It’s special to be involved in the weekend here. I’m a local lad, near enough, so it’s a bit special.
“I was out at half-six yesterday morning but had loads of friends and family out watching me. We’ve got eight people staying with us this week. It does help having so many people out there. But they probably wonder what I’ve been doing over the past few weeks, shooting 76s.”
Marc Warren enjoyed another solid round in the company of superstars Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, improving on his opening level-par 70 with a 67.
“If I play like that again and get the putter warmed up, I think there is a low score in there,” said the Glaswegian.
“Hopefully it’s going to be Saturday to set up a good Sunday. I’m definitely not too far out of it at this stage.”
With the cut at two-under, Craig Lee and Greig Hutcheon squeaked in for the weekend thanks to two improved rounds of 66 and 68 respectively yesterday.
However, on the other side of the divide it meant the high-profile home pair of Stephen Gallacher and Martin Laird both missed out by a shot.