Paul Lawrie says debate over The Open and Ryder Cup is 'least of worries' in the world

Paul Lawrie lives and breathes golf. Few people on the planet, in fact, are more passionate about the sport. Even Lawrie, though, is finding it difficult to focus on matters in the game at a time when thousands of lives are being lost around the world due to Covid-19.

Paul Lawrie, pictured talking over yardage with his caddie Julian Phillips during last year's Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, believes there are more important things than sport in life at the moment. Picture: Aberdeen Standard Investments

"Sport is the least of our worries," said the former Open champion on a conference call set up by Aberdeen Standard Investments, a company he continues to fly the flag for around the world as an ambassador. “There are a lot of things going on in the world which means sport should be taking a back seat."

In golf specifically, Lawrie was referring to events like The Open and the Ryder Cup. Both are close to his heart, but right now even he can't muster the same enthusiasm as would normally be the case.

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“You hear all these guys talking about the [football] Premier League and how they are going to get that played, I just think here are more important things in the world," added the Aberdonian. “I understand it is big business and understand it is important, but not as important as some of the stuff that is going on.”

A decision about The Open, due to be held at Royal St George's in July, seems to be imminent. It has already been claimed that the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in September could be put back a year. Whatever happens, Lawrie is against the biggest golf events being played behind closed doors.

“Thankfully, I’m not in a position where I have to make that decision or any decision of any note on that," he admitted. “All I would say is that fans are a massive part of sport. They always have been and always will be. You take that away from it and it doesn’t make it what it is.

“The Open is one of the biggest sporting events of the year. It’s entirely an R&A decision. I’d be surprised if they were going to be allowed to play it in July anyway, but who knows what will happen. It might change quickly.

"It would be very, very, very strange to play a Ryder cup without fans. I mean, on one hand, it would be quite good because it would save some people abusing you.

"But, on the other hand, it’s part of it. When you are playing away from home, there are more home fans than there are away fans – and that’s a massive part of the Ryder Cup.

"I would see that as quite difficult to do. But, again, the way things are going at the moment, they’re obviously looking at all aspects. And so they should be. There is nothing off the table, I wouldn’t have said, at the moment. But fans are a massive part of it, especially a tournament of that size."

As well as being a player, Lawrie owns a golf centre bearing his name on the outskirts of Aberdeen. "It is difficult," he said of that being closed at the moment, with staff members having being furloughed. "There's a lot of money going out at the moment that we can't do anything about

"But everyone is in that position, not just me, so I'm not moaning about that. You've got to get on with it. The foundation is totally stopped at the minute as well. It's not great, but it's just life at the minute."

That foundation has been a massive boost to the game in the north east of Scotland and the long-term effect on it is a worry. “That depends on how long we are stopped for,” added Lawrie. “It’s not a problem at the moment, but the longer it goes, it might be a problem.

"A lot of our sponsors are local companies who just want to see us do a good job to get kids into the game. But that may change if this goes on for months rather than weeks.”