Lawrie near top of leaderboard; playing best golf of career


AUGUSTA, Ga. – A British Open champion is near the top of the leaderboard at the Masters. Easiest clue? It’s the one who had the claret jug handed to him via Jean Van de Velde.

Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champ, had to sweat it out just to get into this Masters field, so it was easy for him to go out Thursday and play with little pressure.

After a front-nine 37, Lawrie responded with a back-nine 32 that included eagles on No. 13 and 15, Augusta National’s famous par-5s.

“Driving the ball was something I never looked forward too,” Lawrie said after his opening 69. “It’s improved immensely, which is nice.”

Lawrie, 43, has won twice in the past 15 months and feels he’s playing better now than he did 13 years ago, when he won his lone major championship.

“There’s four or five things that I’m doing a little better,” Lawrie said. “I’m holing my fair share of putts. Which always helps.”