Paul Lawrie’s status as a major winner will no longer secure him a first-year exemption on the Champions Tour after that category was dropped for the US-based circuit.
The 1999 Open champion, who turns 50 on 1 January 2019, heard about the unfortunate change from ISM boss Andrew “Chubby” Chandler after he’d asked about it for Darren Clarke. “They’ve taken away the free first year on the Champions Tour if you are a major winner,” said Lawrie. “Chubby looked into it for Darren and he’s got one major and two WGC titles. But he doesn’t believe he has a full year exemption.”
Lawrie, who plans to compete on the European Tour as long as possible, added: “That might take it out of my hands. I wasn’t going to play a helluva lot [on the Champions Tour] anyway, but I was going to play in a few and will get invitations.”
One of Lawrie’s first events in 2017 – the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January – is set to feature three of this season’s major winners. US Open champion Dustin Johnson, Open winner Henrik Stenson and Masters victor Danny Willett will head a star-studded field at Abu Dhabi Golf Club along with the defending champion, Rickie Fowler, and world No 2 Rory McIlroy.
Meanwhile, Bradley Neil is set to leave no stone unturned as he hopes to pass the final test in this season’s European Tour Qualifying School. The 2014 Amateur champion was among five Scots to come through the second stage in Spain on Monday, closing with a 66 to finish ninth out of the 18 qualifiers at Las Colinas.
The Blairgowrie man now moves on to Girona, where the six-round final stage starts on Saturday, along with David Law, Ross Kellett, Grant Forrest and Peter Whiteford.
“Catalunya is a tough place to do well at first time round, so fingers crossed, with the experience from last year [he bowed out after 72 holes], that we might achieve top 25,” said Neil. “I’ve got my coach, Kevin Hale, coming out as well to caddie/help with prep. I can’t leave any stone unturned as its possibly toughest final stage ever with the quality of players there next week.”