The Aberdonian couldn’t see the back of 2013 quickly enough but, having used a two-month break since his last individual event to put in some serious graft, he is looking forward to starting out a new year with a clean slate.
“Last year was a nightmare,” declared Lawrie, one of eight Scots competing in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship. “I didn’t play well at all and was keen to see the back of it. It’s a bit of a relief, to be honest, and I’m keen to get going again.
“I noticed this morning that I’d fallen to 120th in the world rankings, which is just pathetic. I need to get things going again and have been working hard to sort out the stuff that was bugging me. It’s difficult to make changes in the middle of a season but I knew that I had a few things to iron out.
“I’ve done that and, playing in a golf day for Saltire Energy at Saadiyat yesterday, I just ripped it from tee to green while I’m also putting a lot better.”
He was in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi over Christmas and New Year, when the family holiday included a family golf competition involving the 1999 Open champion and his two sons, Craig and Michael.
“I won the money off the boys for the second year running,” reported Lawrie Snr, who has been working with a new fitness trainer, Phil O’Sullivan, in the Granite City since his last individual outing in Turkey, since when he was in Europe’s winning side in the Royal Trophy.
“Wee Michael was second this time. He was a shot ahead playing the last hole but I managed to get into his head a bit on the last tee. I reminded him that he’d ploughed it way right the day before and, while his mum, who was in the buggy, wasn’t impressed with me, it worked as he ploughed it way right again, made six and I made three to win by two. They’ve got to learn the hard way because if they think it’s easy out here, they’ve got another think coming.”
Since his last appearance – in the Hong Kong Open just over a month ago – Chris Doak has not only tied the knot but also changed his golf clubs after earning a contract with Callaway.
He is delighted on both counts and his new wife, Laura, has accompanied him on a three-week trip for the Middle East Swing. “This is the honeymoon – three weeks of golfing,” quipped the Greenock man.
He brought forward his arrival here after feeling that he was wasting his time hitting balls in a gale-force wind back at home under the watchful eye of his coach, Bob Torrance.
“A week past Friday down in Largs, I was hitting balls and hit a 9-iron that only went 40 yards after the ball just flew up in the air,” recalled Doak.
“Bob was sitting there, and I turned round to him and he was just sitting there, puffing, and just seeming to think, ‘well, just get f*****g on with it’! But, after that, I changed my flights to come out here earlier.”
He left it late last season to hang on to his card, but is confident a combination of a new set of weapons and knowledge of courses such as Abu Dhabi Golf Club will allow him to get that job done a bit quicker this time around.
“I’m with Callaway now – new clubs plus sponsorship on the cap,” he revealed. “It’s nice to be part of the Callaway team. I’ve gone from blades to cavity back ones but I feel comfortable with the clubs.
“Going into this year I want to relax a bit more. Looking back, especially on Saturdays, I tried too hard, trying to get that six, seven under par score to move straight up the leaderboard. It just doesn’t work for me.
“I also know all the courses better this year, so I won’t have to play as many practice rounds. When you do, you get a wee bit tired and a wee bit bored as well.”
For the biggest test so far in his European Tour rookie season, Jamie McLeary has been paired with Simon Dyson as the Englishman makes his first Tour appearance since being hit with a suspended two-month ban over his disqualification in the BMW Masters in October.
Stephen Gallacher, Marc Warren, Colin Montgomerie, Craig Lee and Peter Whiteford are also in the field for the £1.6 million event, with Scott Jamieson, Richie Ramsay and David Drysdale all having to sit out.