Ryder Cup: Paul Lawrie won’t let Scotland down, insists pal Alex Ferguson

SIR Alex Ferguson has heaped praise on Paul Lawrie for earning a return to the Ryder Cup at the age of 43 and is confident the 1999 Open champion “won’t let Scotland down” over the next three days at Medinah.

As an avid Aberdeen fan, Lawrie has always been a huge admirer of ex-Dons boss Ferguson and has visited Old Trafford over the years along with his two sons, Craig and Michael, to watch Manchester United.

Ferguson, who plays the occasional round of golf and was at Castle Stuart last summer to watch the Scottish Open, is 
delighted to see Lawrie flying the Saltire as part of the European team in Chicago this week.

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“It’s a marvellous thing at this stage of his career, and some people may be a little surprised that he’s once again at this high level, but I’m not,” the 70-year-old told The Scotsman.

“He’s always had that talent, as he showed as long ago as 1999 at Carnoustie. I think, though, that winning The Open then at that comparatively young age might even have created complications for him. When you are suddenly thrust into that kind of success, with all the attention and much of the nonsense that comes with it, it can be hard for a relatively inexperienced boy to cope with.

“There is also the pressure of trying to repeat that level of success, which comes to everybody who wins a big prize in any sport. It can take some time to recover what he had that won him the title in the first place.”

Breaking off from preparing his side for tomorrow’s home clash with Tottenham in the Premier League, Ferguson added: “The other thing about Paul, of course, is that he’s a straightforward family man, an unpretentious guy who might have found all that attention and celebrity a bit strange.

“He and his two boys have been to Old Trafford a number of times, as they’re all Aberdeen and Manchester United supporters, and you can see they’re just straightforward lads.

“Now Paul is a mature player and he is obviously at the top of his game. I’m pleased for him personally, but also as a supporter, because I think he is the kind of guy a Ryder Cup team needs.

“He’s consistent, always up there in contention over these past couple of years, obviously capable of bringing home a point here and there, that could prove crucial.

“He’s the only Scot in the team and, of course, we’re all rooting for him. He certainly won’t let Scotland down.”

It will be Scotland’s turn, of course, in two years’ time, to host the biennial joust and Lawrie 
already has his sights set on making the European team again for that match at Gleneagles.

He has been mentioned as a possible captain but, having recently climbed into the top 30 in the world rankings, he has no intention of taking his foot off the pedal once this event is done and dusted.

“The Ryder Cup at Gleneagles is fast approaching and I can’t think of anything better than playing in a Ryder Cup in your own country – that would be pretty cool,” he said.

“You want to play as long as you can. I had chats two years ago [when he’d slipped outside the top 200 in the world] and all the advice was not to be too quick to hang up the spikes because you’ll regret it later. If the offer was to captain or to play I’d definitely play and there’s no reason at 45 I can’t get in the team. There are a few 
people who have got better as they have got older, and I think I’m one of them. I hit it better than I ever have, drive it night and day better, and I think I’m slowly but surely getting better overall.

“I can’t imagine two years from now I would be uncompetitive. I just can’t see it. If anything, I think I’ll be higher up the rankings than I am now.”

By the sound of it, Lawrie is certainly better with a golf club in his hand than strutting his stuff on the dancefloor. “Hopeless” and “awful” were two of the words he used to describe his performance in the Strictly-Ryder dancing competition organised by captain Jose Maria Olazabal in the European team hotel on Tuesday night.

“Marian [Lawrie’s wife] was getting very upset because she likes a bit of that,” he said.

“But at least I had a go. My 
cha-cha was rubbish, going this way then that way then jig-jig. But it was a good idea and was well done.

“Olly thought he was stitching us up but we stitched him up as he was first up on his own. It was great fun for an hour. You need that in a team environment, getting everyone laughing.”

He may not have been on this stage for 13 years but Lawrie is feeling comfortable.

“It’s a bit like riding a bike,” he said. “It never goes away. It’s a wee bit strange, a wee bit weird not having played in the Ryder Cup for a while, but I’ve had that all year.

“I hadn’t played in the [World] Match Play for a while and I did okay in that. I wasn’t in The 
Masters for a while, but I’m ticking them off one by one again.

“It’s just great to be here, to be playing. There’s quite a lot of Scottish people here going round with Saltires flying. It’s pretty cool.”