Paul Lawrie: "I’m better now than in ’99"April, 2012
The 1999 Open champion on his competitive instinct, the opening tee shot at the Ryder Cup and a flourishing foundation
PAUL Lawrie will always be associated as the man who profited most from Jean Van de Velde’s 72nd-hole collapse at Carnoustie.
What should be remembered, though, is his closing 67 to get into contention and then the two birdies, at the fearsome 17th and 18th where so many have come to grief, to close out the play-off.
Now the 43-year-old is enjoying a renaissance.
In 2011, after a gap of nine years without a victory, he won in Andalucia and, in February, added a seventh win on tour with one of the performances of the season in Qatar.
A place in the Masters beckons, as does a second Ryder Cup appearance 13 years on from his first at Brookline.
I’ve just been doing everything a little better, I don’t think there is one particular thing.
I’m putting a little better, not a lot but enough to make a wee bit of a difference, I’m a bit fitter and have been working hard in the gym and have been working hard on my game.
I am 43 and am probably fitter now than I was 10 years ago, I work out now a minimum two or three times a week which I never used to do.
I don’t think you need to be super fit to be a golfer but you need to have a reasonable level of fitness and I think you are sharper mentally.
I mainly do cardiovascular, on the bike or the treadmill. We have had a gym at the house since we moved in 12 years ago but I never really used it that much.
I don’t do an awful lot of weights, it’s not strength that I need, it’s more accuracy that is my problem.
I would say I am a better player than when I won the Open, especially ball-striking wise.
The stats would show that I hit a lot more fairways and greens and it feels a lot tighter and more controlled. It used to be a bit loose and long and upright.
Length has never been the problem but keeping it in play has. I’m trying to keep the irons a little closer to the body and hopefully that will serve me well as I get older.
I have been playing good for a long time and I haven’t had a day when it has all come together. I have had days when I have played great and putted horribly or hit a few loose shots and putted nicely.
In Qatar it pretty much all came together and that is as good as I can play. I missed four or five makeable putts and shot seven under and I don’t think you can get much better than that.
You tee off one ahead, you’re never sure what’s going to happen. Jason Day made four birdies to start and every time someone got near I made some birdies of my own which was very pleasing.
My short game
You have to have a variety of shots and you get found out if you don’t. All the young guys coming through have good short games and you need to be as good, if not better, to compete with them.
I work very hard in practice on all sorts of shots and all sorts of lies, there is no point giving yourself a good lie all the time, you’re not benefiting from that.
I’m not guaranteed to play in the Masters yet but it’s looking pretty good. I last played in 2004 and struggled the first couple of years like everybody does.
Augusta National is probably the hardest course to get used to and there is a lot of experience needed.
I have had a couple of OK finishes since then but, when I was playing there, I was struggling with accuracy off the tee and my ball striking wasn’t as good as it is now and around there that needs to be spot on.
This time hopefully it might be a different story. I played in the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes and had a bit of an outside chance going into the last day.
Like all the Open courses it was in fantastic condition and I always like going there.
It’s strange starting with a par 3 but it’s a nice strange and makes it a bit different.
The Ryder Cup
I had three and a half points out of five at Brookline but you are there as a team and we lost. I didn’t take much out of my record and we were all extremely disappointed afterwards to lose from a good position.
I played with Monty in all four matches before the singles. We played practice rounds together and Mark James paired us up on the first morning. We both played pretty solid and it worked.
It would be impossible not to like playing with Monty, at the time he was one of the best players in the world if not the second best. I don’t think it would matter who he was with, he would have won points.
I hit the first shot of the whole match and that was the most nervous I have ever been, even winning the Open doesn’t compare to that.
It was nice to do and people ask you a lot about it but, at the time, it’s not great and every part of your body is moving.
You are genuinely relieved just to hit it and to finish in the first cut of rough was fine by me.
I played in the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes and had a bit of an outside chance going into the last day. Scottish golf
The lesson thing with Martin Laird was blown out of complete proportion when I played him at the World Match Play.
I think Martin was one of 30 boys in the Under 16 squad who I spoke to, I never gave him individual lessons, we all did some short-game work and then had some lunch.
Obviously Martin is a very good player, he is long and he putted extremely well against me.
I’m not sure that would be his level of putting all the time, he said afterwards that it was the best he had putted for a long time. He’s a nice guy and is a good player.
I think when one of us have a good week it spurs the rest of us on. I think when I finished second at the Race to Dubai that may have helped some of the boys because we play together all the time and you think if they can do it then so can I.
David Drysdale, Marc Warren and Alistair Forsyth played well in South Africa, Stephen Gallacher did well in Dubai and I did OK in Qatar.
A lot of it is down to momentum and confidence comes, the more the press talk about how poor it is the harder it is to change that thinking.
Let’s hope that the press will now write about how things are better now but I have my doubts so we’ll wait and see.
My late coach Adam Hunter
I think about him every day, I miss him every day. He was my best friend as well as my coach and we would speak on the phone two or three times a day minimum and we worked together since 1998 when he lost his card and decided to coach full-time.
I thought about him a lot in Qatar and what he would have me do and I had him in my head all through the last round which was great.
I respected him so much and he was the one I would run everything by whether it was about golf or business. I miss him a lot.
Craig is 16 and plays off scratch and Michael is 13 and is off six. The oldest has beaten me a couple of times, he’s quite competitive and no game is a bounce game which is good.
I can’t see any of my swing in theirs, Craig is quite small but stocky and Michael is just stretching and looks like being quite lanky.
I work on their short game at the house. We have a USGA-spec green and about 70 yards of fairway and two bunkers and we also have an artificial green and an indoor green.
We work with any age group, we have flag events for the younger groups and Stableford for the Under 15s and junior opens for Under 18.
We have coaching, we sponsor local tournaments and have just taken on the Scottish Boys and Girls Championships so we’re busy.
It has grown steadily, we were relatively small the first three or four years and since 2005 it has grown into something pretty big.
We have David Law who was the first person to win the Scottish Boys and Scottish Amateur in the same year last year, Philip McLean has just turned pro and there are a number of kids who are 13 and showing a lot of promise.
I go along and do clinics and we go to schools and clubs and are just trying to spread the word that golf is a nice game to be involved in.
I wouldn’t want to coach adults but I enjoy coaching children, I love taking them down the chipping area and showing them how to play a certain shot.
Paul Lawrie is an ambassador of Aberdeen Asset Management, the global asset management company and long-term supporter of Scottish golf
For more on Paul’s foundation visit www.paullawriefoundation.co.uk