Paul Lawrie made a promising start in the $3 million Omega Dubai Desert Classic - after only getting into the star-studded field an hour before teeing off.
The 49-year-old had been second reserve on Tuesday but replaced his Ryder Cup team-mate Peter Hanson - the Swede was the man in before Lawrie but pulled out with a bad back - at 7.30am.
Making the most of his late opportunity, the Aberdonian opened with an encouraging four-under-par 68, which was matched later in the day by Scott Jamieson.
An eagle-3 at the 10th sparked a burst that saw Lawrie, who has missed this event only once since 1992, start for home on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club by picking up five shots in five holes.
“I knew Peter Hanson was struggling and, after hitting a few balls on the range this morning, he said he couldn’t play,” revealed Lawrie, who has his oldest son, Craig, caddying for him. “I had an hour before my tee time and you can’t ask for more than that, really.”
Asked if he’d been in a similar position before in his career, Lawrie didn’t even need to think before replying: “I was first reserve for the European Open in 1992 and sat about the putting green at Sunningdale all day and never got in. It’s amazing how you remember things!
“I did not think I was going to get in here, to be honest, as being second reserve the day before is a big ask, so it ended up well for me and four-under was about right for me. Now it would be nice to kick on from here and make my luck pay off, I suppose.”
Lawrie, whose best finish in this event was fourth in 2000, was one-over after running up a double-bogey 6 at the sixth, where his second shot hit an advertising board and ended up in some scrubland, before transforming his day by covering the last 11 holes in five-under.
“I played pretty decent, hitting some nice shots today,” he said. “The only poor shots I hit were two 3-woods off the 13th tee - the first one and the provisional both going left.
“Apart from that though, I played some nice golf out there. For my eage at the 10th, I had 241 yards into off the left and hit a lovely high, floating 3-wood to four or five feet and knocked it in.”
This is just Lawrie’s second event since he went to Munich in November to see Dr Hans Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt, a homeopathic specialist, after being hindered by a niggling foot injury over the past couple of years.
“The feet haven’t be great, to be honest,” he reported. “In fact, they were poor last week (in Abu Dhabi). On the Thursday my left one pretty much gave way with seven holes to go. Then on Friday I really struggled with them but today I never felt it at all.
“I am still following the doctor’s advice, but he has said it could take two or three visits. He said I shouldn’t expect it to be totally cured after the first visit and I’m going to see him again at the end of March.
“Jose Maria Olazabal (who recommended Dr Muller-Wohlfahrt to him after he helped prolong the Spaniard’s career when the two-time Masters champion was was hit by rheumatoid arthritis) said he was at least two visits before he felt it was really improving, so we will see.”
Lawrie, a two-time Qatar Masters winner, is determined to win back his European Tour card this season and has been encouraged by seeing some positive signs since starting to work with Robert Rock, who combines playing on the European Tour with some coaching.
“I saw him a little bit at my Match Play event last year - that was the first time I started to pick his brains a bit,” he said. “I then sent him some swings over the winter and worked on the stuff he was working on with someone else and drove it a bit better as a result of that.
“I then saw him a bit last week and have seen him quite a bit this week. We played nine holes and I quite like what he has to say.”
Out in the afternoon, Jamieson covered his last six holes in three-under as the Florida-based Glaswegian bounced back well from missing the cut in Abu Dhabi.
Richie Ramsay, who was top Scot in that event, recovered from being two-over after three to sign for a 70, matching efforts from Connor Syme and Marc Warren.
Back-to-back winner Stephen Gallacher finished bogey-bogey for a 71, one better than 1996 champion Colin Montgomerie.
David Drysale withdrew before his afternoon tee time due to a bad back.
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