Trying to use peer pressure among fellow golf professionals to end slow play doesn’t work – and Paul Lawrie has lost friends as a result.
The former Open champion, slowly making a return to playing competitively after ankle surgery, was yesterday launching the Farmfoods Paul Lawrie Invitational at Gleneagles Hotel in July, a charity event which will benefit his own foundation and the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation raising funds to research motor neurone disease established by rugby great Doddie Weir.
But he also addressed his own attempts to curb slow play in the light of the high-profile incidents involving Bryson DeChambeau in Dubai and JB Holmes at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles at the weekend.
“I don’t know what can be done,” he said. “I’ve tried confronting players a couple of times when it got outrageous, guys I always got on well with, and both times it went very badly.
“I hear people saying, ‘the players need to police it’. Well, I have tried that and that doesn’t work either. It just puts you off your game, never mind him.
“He’s obviously not bothered about being a slow player. He knows he’s upsetting the guys he’s playing with, and telling him that is not going to make him play any quicker.”
Lawrie was critical of his own European Tour in the case of DeChambeau, when the tour’s social media team put out a video of the American taking more than a minute and a half over a routine shot.
“That shot Bryson was hitting at the 16th in Dubai was 120-odd yards,” he pointed out. “It can only be a wedge, it’s a lovely temperature in Dubai and you are not worrying about your ball not flying properly. Yet he’s taken a minute and 40-something seconds.
“I don’t understand how the European Tour can show that video online and not do anything about it,” he said. “Is it because he’s winning and the sponsors don’t want that?
“I don’t know the reasons, but there must be. They have monitoring systems in place, and slow play is just getting worse and worse.
“There’s clearly something that is stopping the tours dealing with it. I don’t want to have a go at them, but if they wanted to sort it out, I think they could.”
Lawrie is now going to split his time between the main tour and the seniors so it doesn’t affect him as much for himself, but he’s concerned about the effect on young players.
“15 years ago I’d be raging as he’s costing you money, now you just think, ‘if the officials are not going to sort it out, there’s nothing I can do about it,” he said. “I wouldn’t raise it with players now, it didn’t get a nice reaction.
“In the Foundation, we’ve had a few kids that we’ve spoken to, making them aware about the time it should take. You have to try and educate them as they are coming through. That’s all you can do.”
Lawrie will go back on Tour in Oman and Qatar – where he is a former champion – but has no aspirations other than playing pain-free for the first time in years after undergoing invasive surgery to cure a longstanding ankle problem last September.
That was an option that came about entirely by chance, after he had downed tools last year in April as the pain – which he’d felt since his great season of 2012 when he made the Ryder Cup team for Medinah – had become unbearable and he was contemplating that might be the end of his career.
“I was watching (son) Michael in the East of Scotland Open at Lundin Links and (former Scotland rugby team physio) Stuart Barton was behind me in the coffee queue and introduced himself,” he said.
“He said he was sorry I’d pulled out of the Scottish and the Open and was there anything that could be done, and it just went from there,” he said. “When I stopped I was thinking that might be me all done, and if it was that I didn’t have an issue. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved in my career and if it was over then it was over.”
Barton, now in private practice, put Lawrie in touch with surgeon Gordon McKay who did the surgery, and while pacing himself gradually, Lawrie has played pain-free for the first time in seven years.
“I have things I can do, I don’t have to play golf,” he said. “But I love playing golf, that’s what I’ve always done. I think I’m ok now to crack on, and I think I’ll be a good senior.”
The new event, on July 15 – the Monday of Open week – is a pro-cel-am event featuring 22 four-balls, two of each being corporate amateurs. The pros will be European Tour players, the celebrities so far signed up include Gordon Strachan, Neil Lennon and former Scotland rugby stars Rory Lawson and the Evans brothers, Max and Thom.
“I am delighted to have Eric Herd of Farmfoods on board as the main sponsor, and we also have Brewdog as a premier partner and they are on board for the Scottish Par 3 Championship as well, as is Eric,” added Lawrie.
“We’ll have a shotgun start on the PGA Centenary Course followed by a gala dinner in the ballroom at night, and Marian and I have used my sponsorship deal at Gleneagles to get the rooms and the green fees, so there are no real expenses. Everything we raise is going to be given away.”
Lawrie’s own foundation will get 50% of the expected six-figure sum raised, a quarter will go the Doddie Weir’s foundation and another to the Beatson Institute.
“We think it is a great way to raise money and we are delighted it is at Gleneagles,” he said. “It is a great location in the middle of the country and we are looking forward to it hugely. I will play in one of the teams.
“Probably half of the teams have been sold already, so it’s been a nice response already from the corporate community.”