Paul Lawrie should be in mix for Ryder Cup captaincy, says Andrew Coltart
Paul Lawrie deserves to join Henrik Stenson and Luke Donald on the list of names being considered for Europe’s Ryder Cup captaincy for the 2023 match in Italy, according to one of his former team-mates in the biennial contest.
Speaking exclusively to The Scotsman, Andrew Coltart said he was “surprised” that Lawrie, a major winner and two-time Ryder Cup player, had not yet been included in conversations about Padraig Harrington’s successor.
Following Lee Westwood’s announcement towards the end of last year that he’d ruled himself out of consideration for the role in Rome as he focuses on extending his playing career, 2016 Open champion Stenson and former world No 1 Donald have been the only names in the frame.
However, Coltart strongly believes that Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion, should, at the very least, be part of the discussion by a selection panel, which is made up of DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley, tournament committee chairman David Howell and the past three captains.
“Look, there’s one name that has not been talked about and it surprised me because, and overlooked is possibly the best word, Paul is a major winner, he’s a multiple Ryder Cup player and an eight-time DP World Tour winner,” said Coltart.
“Because he’s such a quiet person, it’s easy to see how his name is being skirted by, but I believe he has all the attributes to be a quality captain. He has major-winning experience and it slightly grates with me that I haven’t seen his name being mentioned and it deserves to be talked about.”
Lawrie made his Ryder Cup debut in 1999 at Brookline, where he hit the opening shot of the match alongside Colin Montgomerie. The Scottish duo beat David Duval and Phil Mickelson 3&2 in that first session before being sent out again in the afternoon by Mark James and earning a half against David Love III and Justin Leonard.
They then suffered a last-green defeat at the hands of Hal Sutton and Jeff Maggert before defeating Tiger Woods and Steve Pate by 2&1 in the penultimate session in Boston. Capping a brilliant debut, Lawrie beat Maggert 4&3 in the singles.
The Aberdonian bridged a 13-year gap to make his return to the biggest stage in team golf in 2012, when he played his part in helping a team captained by Jose Maria Olazabal pull off the ‘Miracle at Medinah’.
As Europe came from 10-6 down heading into the last day, Lawrie beat Brandt Snedeker, who’d just won the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship and FedEx Cup, 5&3, which was the biggest success on a dramatic last day in Chicago.
“I know for a fact as I was there as one of his team-mates that Paul was heroic in 1999 as a rookie, hitting the opening tee shot alongside Monty when every part of his body was shaking,” added Coltart, a two-time European Tour winner who is now one of the main members of the Sky Sports Golf commentary team.
“He then got back in the team for the ‘Miracle at Medinah’. He knows the highs and lows of professional golf and he’s absolutely not scared to speak his mind. Based on his credentials, he is somebody that deserves serious consideration.”
On top of his playing achievements, Coltart reckons there are lots of other reasons why 53-year-old Lawrie, a vice-captain in 2016, should be in with a chance of joining Eric Brown, Bernard Gallacher, Sam Torrance and Colin Montgomerie in holding the Ryder Cup captaincy.
“Off his own back, he contributed to the DP World Tour by setting up the Paul Lawrie Match Play (an event held three times from 2015-17) and is now promoting the Scottish Challenge,” he said.
“Off his own back, he set up the Paul Lawrie Foundation, which has been responsible for lots of youngsters getting into golf in his native north-east.
“Off his own back, he set up the Tartan Pro Tour to give Scottish-based professionals playing opportunities in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic hit circuits around Europe and has quickly grown that to 13 events at top venues around Scotland.
“His commitment to our tour should also be highlighted, having played 620 events (Donald, incidentally, has only made 182 in comparison) on the recently renamed DP World Tour when others sought riches on the PGA Tour and, of course, he’s just recently become a member of the board of the European Tour Group.”
It was reported recently that Stenson would have to choose between the proposed riches of a mooted Saudi Arabia-backed Super League or the Ryder Cup captaincy if he was the man selected.
“There’s obviously a lot of chat going on about who the next Ryder Cup captain is going to be and it seems we are quite away yet from deciding that,” observed Coltart. “There’s various scenarios in play that are going to determine whether people’s names will be seriously considered or won’t.
“How is the Ryder Cup captain defined? Is it defined by past Ryder Cup performances? Is it defined by major championships? Is it defined by longevity on the tour and what they have given back to the tour? Is it defined by personality?
“For me, the latter is a massively important part of being a captain. You need someone who can deliver a message in a team room and I think his personality and character would ensure that he’d have no problems whatsoever inspiring the troops.
“So, when some names are mentioned, players who have incredible golfing records, pedigree and Ryder Cup experience, one of the questions that enters my mind is: what’s that person going to be like in the team room?
“I know what it’s like in a Ryder Cup team room and some people have a quieter demeanor that maybe doesn’t suit that. But not Paul Lawrie and, taking everything into account, I feel strongly that he deserves to be in the frame for the 2023 captaincy.”
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