Lawrie seeks a major to call his own at Masters
05 Apr 2012 - 19:46:58
Paul Lawrie, who struggled for years to cope with a major lack of recognition after taking a 1999 British Open title squandered by Jean Van de Velde, has put himself in contention at the Masters.
The 43-year-old Scotsman eagled the par-5 13th and 15th holes in Thursday's opening round at Augusta National to finish on three-under par 69, his lowest 18-hole total in 15 career Masters rounds.
Lawrie has revived his game in the past year after going nearly nine years without a tour-level triumph, finding top form even after the death of coach Adam Hunter from leukemia last October at age 48.
"I think of him all the time. It's just a pity he's not here," Lawrie said. "He would have been walking around and taking notes. We would have gone through it in the house at night. Obviously we can't do that anymore. But I think of him every day."
Ten strokes off the pace in the final round of the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie, Lawrie finished with a 67 to match American Justin Leonard and watched Frenchman Van de Velde's historic last-hole collapse into a playoff.
Lawrie birdied the last two holes of the four-hole playoff to win the Claret Jug, but the epic failure by Van de Velde became the defining moment of the day and diminished the impact of Lawrie's achievement.
"I tried to be fair, for a wee while, to change the way that people saw it, and I failed miserably to be honest," Lawrie said.
Dealing with public perceptions despite success challenged Lawrie, but he says he has put it behind him.
"It doesn't bother me anymore. I kind of lost that a long time ago," Lawrie said.
"One day I just thought, 'What are you battling against this for? Just get on with it. If you win tournaments, people will respect you. If you don't people are not going to be bothered really.'
"I just sort of do what I do and get on with it. If people want to give me respect for what happened, they can. If they don't, it doesn't bother me any more.
"Adam, he used to get so frustrated with me. He used to pull his hair out with the way I used to sort of see it and when people would say something negative about me. It used to just cause me so much grief.
"It doesn't alter my life if someone doesn't think I should have won and Jean should have any more. It used to annoy me. But not any more. We just get on with it."
Lawrie had not won a tour-level title since 2002 until taking the Andalucia Open some 13 months ago. He followed with a runner-up finish at the European Tour's season-ending Dubai World Championship and won February's Qatar Masters.
"I'm a better player now than I was ten years ago, no question," Lawrie said. "I drive the ball night and day better than I used to drive the ball. I hit a lot more fairways and a bit longer, too."
Lawrie had not played at the Masters in eight years but qualified as a result of cracking the top 50 in the world rankings last week. While he is in the hunt for a green jacket, he is adopting a low-key approach to the quest.
"Not thinking about winning at all at the moment," he said. "Obviously I've had a good day. I know there's a long way to go. Not thinking about Sunday at all. That's a long way off."