Paul Lawrie will be taking Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice by having a knees-up if he wins again in his career and will be toasting that success with his own signature blend, which is being produced by Loch Lomond Whiskies to mark the Aberdonian’s victory in the 1999 Open Championship as it returns to Carnoustie this summer.
“I had a deal with First Group and they named a bus after me and put our logo on it and used it for all the schools, which was really cool,” revealed Lawrie of things that have come about on the back of his successful career, notably that Claret Jug success, of course, but also two Ryder Cup appearances.
“But, for someone who has been brought up and played golf in Scotland, a whisky association is something I always wanted. You play golf all over the world and whisky is produced here, so it’s a really cool thing for me to have my own bottle, which I can sign and people can keep.”
While Lawrie enjoys a tipple these days, though always in moderation, it was a different story when he landed that major victory on the Angus coast just under 19 years ago. “I didn’t drink a lot then,” he admitted. “I wish I had because I quite enjoy a drink now. But I was a whole different character back then who practised morning noon and night to ensure I would be the best that I could be. I was hell bent on making sure I made the most of the opportunity I had given myself and didn’t get to the end of my days and regret not doing it properly. So after winning the Open I only had one or two drinks at home.”
It was Ferguson, one of Aberdeen supporter Lawrie’s heroes, who changed his attitude about making sure that any success was celebrated properly. “I remember Sir Alex saying to me years later that we must have had a hell of a party after I won the Open,” he added. “But I said we hadn’t and he replied that that was a massive mistake because you should always celebrate success and that some of the nights Man United had had were memorable because they always celebrated success and I thought, ‘man, he’s right, I need to start drinking more’.
“I would have said that I started celebrating success after I won the Dunhill Links (in 2001). There had been an 18-month spell when I had played nicely and didn’t win and after I won we had a big get-together with officials and sponsors. Up to then there had been a lot of chat that the Open had been a fluke. Then I won in Wales soon after and it was around that time we started gathering everybody and going to the Marcliffe (the hotel in Aberdeen owned by his good friend, Stewart Spence) for a bit of a party.”
In golf, celebrations don’t come any bigger than for the winning team in the Ryder Cup, which Lawrie experienced himself after delivering one of the Sunday singles successes that helped Europe pull off the “Miracle at Medinah” in 2012.
“That was an all-nighter,” he said, smiling. “I don’t think anyone slept that night. We were all drunk at the press conference. [Graeme] McDowell fell asleep and hit his head on the microphone – and that was just the press conference. I also remember [Lee] Westwood crawling behind everyone’s chairs and Jose Maria (captain Olazabal) telling him to get back to his seat.
“You’re out there all day in the sun, you’ve had very little to eat because as soon as your match finishes you’re straight back out to support everybody. Then when you go back in they ply with champagne. No food all day and straight on the champagne. Wow. We were all just blazing.
“The following week was Dunhill Links and we got home Tuesday night late on. I played with my son Craig that week and that Thursday is the worst I have ever played at a tournament. I think I shot 79 at Carnoustie and I’ve never hit anything close to as bad as that. But, at the time it’s not a problem. You’ve just come back from the dead to win the Ryder Cup. It’s amazing how it affects you. It’s great at the time, but the next few days was not very pleasant.”
Lawrie, who is pleased to see Sir Alex is recovering following his recent emergency brain surgery, followed his visit to Loch Lomond Whiskies distillery in Alexandria by heading east to join Marc Warren and Michele Thomson in starting the big countdown to Gullane hosting both the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Opens in July. Rickie Fowler won the men’s event when it was first staged at the East Lothian venue in 2015 and Lawrie is looking forward to being back two months’ time.
“I think it worked in 2015,” he said of a composite course that will again be in operation for an event that is now part of the European Tour’s Rolex Series. “I hadn’t played at Gullane much before then, but I thought it was good and I think the feedback from a lot of the players was really good. Before we went and they mentioned we’d be bussed up to the second tee (the first for event), you are not too sure and it might have been the same with building a new tee at the 18th.
“But I thought it worked and it was a good venue, which is obviously why we are going back this year.”