MARCH 2015 - BY MATT HOOPER: Paul talks about the 1999 Open, St Andrews and his Dunhill victory
“It’s raining and windy, Paul Lawrie is a great bad weather player, having grown up in Aberdeen, he will do well this week” is just one of the many stereotypes said about the 1999 Open Champion.
I don’t know any player, for the record, that likes playing in bad weather, it just so happens that Paul Lawrie is a very talented golfer and can win in all conditions. Because if it was a true statement then every Scot would be a major champion.
You don’t have to dig very deep to find out that Paul Lawrie is immensely proud of his achievements, so much so that when I asked him if he thought he had underachieved he answered: “No I've overachieved actually as I turned pro at 5 handicap and won 8 times on tour one of which was a major and played in two Ryder cups, pretty good for an underachiever!!!!!”
8 wins, a Claret Jug and playing in arguably the two greatest Ryder Cups of all time! Yes I would say that is a sensational career for most golfers on the planet. The reason I asked that question though was because Paul possesses outrageous talent.
In his near thirty year professional career he has only won 8 times on the European Tour, and after his 2002 Celtic Manor Wales Open win he didn’t win for another nine years on the tour.
Yet this is a player who can summon up the skill, will and character to win from a record 10 strokes behind in the final round of the 1999 Open at Carnoustie.
I spoke to Paul about the week 16 years ago and began by asking him – Coming to Carnoustie, did you feel good about your game?
“Yes as I had won in Qatar earlier in the year and was looking forward to the open at Carnoustie for months as it’s a course I had played quite a lot”
Everyone always says how brutal Carnoustie was that week, just how hard was it and was it poorly set up in your opinion?
“The fairways were very narrow and the rough extremely long and thick but it was the same for everyone but looking back I'm sure the R&A hadn't meant for it to be that tough”
Going into the weekend did you feel like you were well set for a good championship?
“Yes I was in a good position heading into the weekend and felt comfortable with my position in the event”
Talk about your third round of 76, did you feel like it was all over and you were just playing for a decent finish?
“I didn't feel I was going to win if that's what you mean but I was 13th heading into final round so decent week”
Your final round of 67 was extraordinary, talk about it and was it your best round ever?
“Yes I'd say Sunday at Carnoustie has to be up there as one of my best final rounds but my singles at Medinah (2012 Ryder Cup) would be my best ever as was -6 for The 14 holes I played”
Where were you when Van de Velde was playing 18 and what was your reaction?
“We went to the range to hit some balls in case we were involved in playoff”
All of the talk on that day and since has been about Van de Velde’s collapse. Does it annoy you that your round of 67, and the fact you achieved the biggest comeback in Major Championship history is so often over-looked?
“Yes a wee bit but that's how people see things and he did collapse so natural for people to jump on that as it was dramatic but would have been nice to read how well I took my chance but that didn't happen”
The 4-iron to 18 in the play-off, is it the best shot of your life? What sort of discussion went into deciding which club to hit?
“It was a four iron and yes it was a lovely shot to pull off under the circumstances, sticking to my routine was the secret”
Following his incredible victory in the 1999 Open Championship Lawrie took his place in the 1999 European Ryder Cup team at Brookline, hitting the first tee shot on Friday morning.
His stock was at its height, and he joined the PGA Tour for the 2000 season, it didn’t go to plan for the Scot. It would be 2 years before we saw him lift a trophy again, ironically Carnoustie would play a huge part in his first and only win at the home of golf, St Andrews.
He played another iconic shot in the mist on the Monday to defeat Ernie Els, a birdie putt from the Valley of Sin to win by 1 stroke and take the inaugural Alfred Dunhill Links Championship home.
2 years later you dramatically won the inaugural Alfred Dunhill Links, what did you feel like when you holed the putt from the valley of sin to win?
“It was special to win an event at the old course and extremely special to have Martin Gilbert there with me as he has been a friend and main sponsor for years”
It was another epic battle; this time with Ernie Els, how special was it to add a win at the home of golf to the Claret Jug?
“Very nice indeed it's always cool to win in Scotland which I've been lucky enough to do three times now.”
You have played in arguably the two greatest Ryder Cups ever, with differing outcomes, where does the 2012 Ryder Cup rank in your career?
“It was a huge effort to get myself back into the Ryder Cup team, not just by me but the whole team from my wife to coach, Physio, fitness, and it was very cool to win it”