Lawrie the Forgotten Champion Returns

By Associated PressJuly 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Paul Lawrie squirms in his seat, his eyelids drawing a little tighter, his Scottish brogue fading just a bit.
 
He'll be the first to admit that he's not too comfortable with so much attention. Then again, he sure would like to get a little more acclaim for the way he played on the final day of the 1999 British Open.
 
Seems like a reasonable request.
 
After all, Lawrie had one of the greatest closing rounds in Open history, considering the unforgiving course and nasty weather at Carnoustie. His 10-shot comeback is a major championship record. His next-to-last shot -- a 4-iron to 3 feet that sewed up his playoff victory -- was about as good as it gets.
 
Yep, Lawrie's name is forever on the claret jug. It's just not etched in anyone's mind.
 
He won the Open that Jean Van de Velde lost.
 
'I would have liked to have seen a little bit more of 'Jean Van de Velde blew the Open but, by God, Paul Lawrie shot 67 and won the tournament by two shots by hitting the best shot anyone has ever seen down at the last hole,'' he said, sounding both sad and perturbed. 'But that didn't happen very often.'
 
Even now, eight years removed from his greatest victory, Lawrie is still getting overlooked.
 
This should be a moment of triumph -- the former champ returning to Carnoustie -- but the buildup to the Open provided more replays of Van de Velde standing barefooted in the Barry Burn than Lawrie holding up one of golf's most treasured prizes.
 
And, as if rubbing it in, the pairings came out: Lawrie is teeing off Thursday alongside two-time defending champion Tiger Woods, who always attracts the largest galleries and the most attention.
 
Rest assured, there will be plenty of cheers from the Scottish fans for one of their own when Lawrie is introduced. Then, all eyes will quickly shift to the world's No. 1 player, as Woods tries to become the first golfer in a half-century to win the oldest major three years in a row.
 
'From a personal point of view, I would rather it be low key,' Lawrie said. 'But you want to play with the best players. Obviously, Tiger is by far the best player in the world right now, and I'm looking forward to playing with him for two days. It will be all right.'
 
The 38-year-old Lawrie, who was born and still lives right up the road in Aberdeen, is viewed as one of the most fluky major champions, a guy who benefited from Van de Velde's improbable meltdown on the 72nd hole.
 
Needing only a double-bogey 6 to wrap up the title, the Frenchman hit one errant shot after another on his way to a 7. That's what everyone remembers. They seem to forget that Lawrie closed with a 4-under 67 on a course where the best total score was 6 over. They overlook that he knocked off Van de Velde and Justin Leonard in the playoff, closing with a pair of birdies on two of the toughest finishing holes in the world.
 
At least Lawrie's fellow golfers, especially those who play with him on the European Tour, are quick to give him his due.
 
'From my perspective, it's not overlooked,' England's Justin Rose said. 'I recognize, having been here that year, how incredible 67 was the last day, and to come from 10 shots back. It's a miracle round.'
 
Unfortunately for Lawrie, there have been no more miracles.
 
He's managed only two wins since that magical day along the North Sea, the last coming five long years ago at the Wales Open. He dipped as low as 140th in the European Tour rankings and would have lost his card if not for that '99 title. This season, he's missed the cut in half of his 16 events, still looking for his first top-10 showing. A prominent London bookie listed him as a 200-to-1 long shot this week.
 
Showing the perpetual optimism of a golfer, Lawrie points to subtle signs of improvement.
 
'My game is in reasonable shape,' he insisted. 'Not that I ever talk about making the cut being a good week, but I've made four of the last five cuts, which I hadn't been doing at the start of the year. That's a positive there. There's been some very, very good patches of play the last few weeks.'
 
Lawrie has never gotten to sit down with Van de Velde over a pint of beer or a good meal, two mates reliving the shots that left them forever linked. They weren't close friends before the '99 Open. They aren't close now. There was never any reason to propose such a summit meeting.
 
'We say hello and when we play together, we always have good fun,' Lawrie said. 'I've never been to dinner with him or breakfast with him. So, that conversation has never taken place, and I wouldn't imagine that it ever would.'
 
There's certainly no chance of it happening this week. Van de Velde didn't qualify for this year's Open, and he wouldn't have been able to play anyway because of a mysterious ailment that has plagued him for several months.
 
As for Lawrie, he'd rather talk about playing in front of his two boys, 12-year-old Craig and 8-year-old Michael. They got to pose with the claret jug in '99, but they were too young to have any memories of that seminal event in their daddy's life.
 
'They're both playing golf regularly,' Lawrie said, looking forward to riding home with his boys after the first two rounds. 'They will ask what I hit in '99 and what I hit this time. They've both got a real good idea about golf and the players, so it should really be good.'
 
And, hopefully, they won't ask him about Van de Velde.
 
'What can I do?' Lawrie rued. 'There was a lot written about what Jean did, and rightly so. I didn't read a lot about how well I did the last day. But that's not my job.'
 
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.