Paul Lawrie will be back at The Open this year, but he won’t be coming for a wave goodbye on the Swilcan Bridge.
The 150th Open at the Old Course is clearly the highlight of the golfing year in 2022 and the 1999 champion will use his career exemption again, having opted not to play in 2021 at Royal St George’s.
When Lawrie retired from playing the European Tour full-time at the 2020 Scottish Open, he indicated that he might play the Open just one more time. He has champions’ exemption until age 60 at least, and turned 53 on New Year’s Day.
But he feels that links golf is the one format of the game where he can still compete with the younger guys, so this year might not be the last.
‘I feel I can get around the Old Course’
The 150th Open, St Andrews, 2022.
Everything has led to this 🏆 pic.twitter.com/rWZL7y4JF5
— The Open (@TheOpen) January 1, 2022
“I’ll be at the Open. I’m looking forward to it,” he said. ““I feel I can get around the Old Course a little easier than a lot of other courses.
“Obviously it is links ground so the scoring will be pretty good if the weather is nice, I would imagine.”
Lawrie’s best chance to repeat his 1999 win probably came at St Andrews last time, when he was in outright third place at the halfway point of the weather-disrupted championship.
He played in the penultimate third-round group (on a Sunday) with fellow Scot Marc Warren, who was tied fourth after 36 holes.
“I was in there after two rounds last time,” he recalled. “I played with Marc in the third round and although we both played well, we putted terribly.
“Neither of us fed off each other well and struggled on the greens and got left behind. That was a killer.”
‘I’m not decrepit or totally gone!’
The highlights of Paul Lawrie's career 🎥 pic.twitter.com/gr02HH8u4p
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) October 2, 2020
Seeing the length younger players were hitting the ball and the courses being stretched to match – as well as recurring injury problems – was what led to Lawrie coming off the main tour full-time.
“Some of the venues, with the length they are, there’s no way I can get it around anymore,” he said.
“I’m not decrepit or totally gone! The Open courses I think I can get it round, no bother.
“I can scuttle it a bit more than you can when it’s through the air. So I’m looking forward to it.”
But the Open may actually be just a warm-up to another major championship a week later, at one of his favourite venues. It’s the Senior Open on the King’s Course at Gleneagles. Only, he’ll be hoping to avoid his friend and fellow Scot Colin Montgomerie in the draw.
“The Senior Open at Gleneagles makes it a great two weeks for me,” he said.
“My only really poor performance in 2021 was the Senior Open at Sunningdale. I was absolutely gutted the way I played, it was absolutely awful.
“I played with Monty and it’s funny, but I still struggle to play with him a little bit. In my era he was probably the best Scottish player. Whenever I play with him I feel a little bit under the cosh for some reason.
“But I played poorly last year. I am looking for a much better performance at Gleneagles.”