He was the Inspiration Award winner at the recent Scottish Golf Awards. He has won eight European Tour titles, starred in the ‘Miracle at Medinah’, been a Ryder Cup vice-captain and lifted that famous Claret Jug back in 1999.
At 48, though, Paul Lawrie shows no sign of letting up, his recent win at the Dimension Data Pro-Am, a Sunshine Tour event in South Africa, testament to that. We sat down with him at the 19th Hole…
Your Inspiration Award, that must help to inspire all the young players coming after you?
PL: “It’s important, but not just for them. For David Law and Ross Kellett, they watched me win in South Africa at the Dimension Data Pro-Am. These guys are in their early and mid 20s, it shows them, man, you’ve a heck of a career if you keep going.
“We’ve had quite a few players through our (Paul Lawrie) Foundation, through our hands. Davie and Ross are doing the best, they’re on the Challenge Tour. But we’ve had lots of guys and they’ve all got my email, my mobile to call. They don’t call very often, and sometimes I wish they would call a little bit more. But I think it’s up to them to find out for themselves, the mistakes they make. Sometimes it’s the best way.”
Yes, great win in South Africa, beating the likes of Lee Westwood and a number of top South Africans. It was your first since the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in 2012.
PL: “It was great fun. To play with Michael (youngest son) and to see me win, it was brilliant. He played off scratch, so he was getting no shots throughout the week. To be 30 under as a team was brilliant.
“It ranks way up there. When I came home, I had a few interviews, and I said to one of them, I know it’s not a European Tour event, but when you’re playing with your ‘loon’, and it’s an event of that size, you still get the same feelings.”
How did you feel coming down the stretch again to win?
PL: “The back nine I felt a bit of pressure. I hadn’t won in four years, so for me, a win’s a win. I know it’s not a Tour event, but it was a good field, and to win with Michael was just awesome.
“I birdied 4 and 5, then holed about a 15 footer at 8, and the first board I saw was at the ninth, and I looked over and saw that I was one behind playing nine. All of a sudden it’s automatic pilot, you click in to what you need to do. I walked a bit slower. You take your time. You see some of these lads, they get a wee bit ahead of themselves, get a bit excited. I just slow down a little bit and let it happen.
“I played really nicely in Dubai, but made a lot of mistakes and didn’t putt very well. In Qatar, I missed the cut by a shot which was just stupid. So I went out there to the Dimension Data feeling quite good.”
You are back up the world rankings to inside the top 250. How high can you go again?
PL: “You can see how many places I jumped in the world rankings, so there must have been a lot of good players, and to beat them in their back yard is never easy when they are playing there all winter. They all hit it a long way and the grass is a bit different, so, man, it was one of the most enjoyable weeks I can remember.
“I don’t see why I can’t get back in the top 50 in the rankings, I really don’t. I understand I haven’t been producing that kind of golf for a while, but I work the same, I hit the same amount of balls, put a lot of time into it. I don’t think I’m past the best of it yet.
“But you’ve got to produce it. There’s no point in saying that. You’ve got to get the jobs done, get the results. But I honestly feel I can still win at the highest level. I’ve felt great, physically, for a good few months now. I’ve hit a lot of balls, it’s not as if I can’t hit a lot of balls. For a while I wasn’t able to hit many more than 40 or 50 balls and I was struggling. So I’m hitting 400/500 most mornings at the (Paul Lawrie) Centre, five days a week. I feel ready to go.
“It’s brilliant that I get into the WGC-Bridgestone now after winning the Dimension Data. I didn’t know that until we were at a dinner on the Saturday night.”
We hear the Sunningdale Foursomes is among the events on the agenda this month…
PL: “I’d always wanted to play in the Sunningdale Foursomes and every single year it never fitted in. I was away or whatever. A few months ago, I looked and I thought, ‘Man I can make the Sunningdale Foursomes this year. I’d love to play in it.’
“The young one, Michael, is going to caddie for me and Craig (oldest son) is my partner. I’ve never played the New (course). It should be good fun. I’ve never played foursomes with Craig before, so we will have to work out our strategy (smiling). I’m looking forward to it, it should be good fun.”
And you have switched management companies, now working with Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler. Was it with one eye on seniors’ golf?
PL: “I need to be ready when I’m 50. I need to keep playing. When I get to 50 I feel could be a heck of a senior. I feel I could do really well on the Senior Tour, but not just in the seniors, I’ll play on the main tour as well.
“I’ll go to America a little bit, I’m going to play. A lot of guys in my era when they got to 50 they were kinnda done. I don’t feel I’m going to be in that category. I feel I’m still going to be competitive on the main tour and mix in a bit of seniors, as opposed to the other way, mostly the seniors and mix in a few main tour events.”
Thanks Paul and good luck for the rest of 2017!
Lawrie pictured top with Stephen Gallacher at the 2017 Scottish Golf Awards at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange