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Opinion & Analysis

Scotland’s forgotten major winner

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When the name Paul Lawrie is mentioned on GolfWRX, it is usually on a forum thread where the question of the worst major winner of all time is posed. Recognition of sorts, but recognition, which is beginning to slip away at least in minds of many who have replaced Lawrie’s name with that of Danny Willett.

That Lawrie is treated in that way is as disappointing as it is wrong. The Home of Golf has not produced many major winners in the last 100 years. Sandy Lyle aside, Paul Lawrie is it. So how can it be that the winner of The Open, eight European Tour events, and a two-time Ryder Cup player has been relegated to such to an afterthought amongst golf fans, commentators, and tournament organizers. In spite of his efforts to get invited, he is now being regularly ignored by Champions Tour events and he faces a yearly ghosting the PNC Father-Son Challenge that he so dearly wishes to play in with one of his sons.

That things have seem to be going this way for Lawrie has perhaps been inevitable. A “lucky” major winner who only happened to shoot a 67 on the final day, around the most difficult Open course in recent memory before then birding the toughest two holes on the toughest closing stretch of the toughest test in golf. The most recent high point in his career is inarguably his qualifying for the Ryder Cup in 2012. 13 years after making his debut and a number of years after seemingly having slipped into obscurity he was back on golf’s grandest stage. His play that week was solid before a spectacular Sunday saw him beat Brandt Snedeker in singles.

Since that time, age and injuries have caught up with him with a particularly problematic foot condition preventing him from playing much at all during 2018. He is now 50 and into the senior ranks. Thus far, he has not caught the attention of the Champions Tour with his first start looking likely to be April at the Insperity Invitational.

Can you imagine one-time major winners such as Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, or Mike Weir being similarly ignored when their time comes to compete with the over 50s? If it was starts on the Champions Tour that Lawrie is looking for, it seems that he would have been better off playing professional baseball like John Smoltz, as opposed to winning the games oldest major.

Over and above his own professional achievements, the stellar work of his Paul Lawrie Foundation in attracting juniors to golf and encouraging them into its competitive arena should be recognised. Founded in 2001, the Foundation has grown steadily over the years and provided support, mentoring and places to play for juniors all over the north and north east of Scotland. To date, the Foundation has been a huge success with David Law, a player long under the wing of Lawrie now making it on to and winning on the European Tour and recently turned professional Sam Locke who won the silver medal at Carnoustie perhaps the most famous graduate.

The successes of Law and Locke and the motivation that provides for those coming behind them is as a direct result of Lawrie’s vision in creating the foundation. The foundation itself indicates that it would be great if players who have come through its ranks end up winning on Tour or even a major but before all of that, the goal is simple — get clubs into the hands of youngsters and get them playing.

Thus far, Lawrie has been able to achieve that with great success, embarrassing the efforts of organizations such as the R&A and Scottish Golf Union. A major winner who genuinely has had a massive impact on getting people to play the game — surely that is something worth recognizing and remembering!

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Matthew O’Neill is neither a professional writer nor a professional golfer, he is simply a self-proclaimed golf fanatic. Having been a golfer from the age of 8, he has been a member at his home club in Scotland from the age of 13. In the time he has been a member there he has worked in the Pro Shop, served on the club council and currently captains the Men’s Scratch Team. Playing off a handicap of 3, he competes in club and regional competitions and regularly attends at professional events. When he is not talking or playing golf, his time is spent with his young family and at work as a lawyer. A product of his generation, as well as being active on GolfWRX forums, he regularly uses social media to keep up to date with the latest golf news and views, please feel free to reach out to him on those platforms.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Harvey

    Mar 10, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    His RC 5n4 singles win over Snedeker was all the better considering Sneds came freshly off his 10 million Fed x cup win. If Lawrie was thumped that day not an eyelid would have blinked due to little expectation, yet very few eyelids blinked even after his superb performance. Trivia maybe, but when Phil won the open at Muirfield Lawrie’s final three round score was only bettered by the actual winner. Lawrie, a class player who deserves better from certain quarters.

  2. Stixman

    Mar 10, 2019 at 4:57 am

    Twaddle, no-one on our side has forgotten him or the generosity of his contribution to golf post Carnoustie.

  3. Mark.

    Mar 7, 2019 at 5:49 am

    I have not forgotten him.

  4. John Wilkes

    Mar 7, 2019 at 5:36 am

    Great article. A man who does so much to promote the game in Scotland and a great player. Poor to see he can’t even get into the father/son event

  5. Rich Douglas

    Mar 6, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    From the US Tour, let’s not forget Orville Moody, whose only win was the US Open. Or Shaun Micheel (PGA), or even Michael Campbell (US Open). My favorite for this category is Andy North. He won 3 times on tour, two of the the US Open.

  6. P

    Mar 6, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    If Paul could have played on the PGA Tour in the States immediately after his Open win and had got decent results for a few years like a couple wins and a slew of top 10s, may be he would have been known and more respected in places like WRX but everything he did and was happened before WRX really took hold.
    He had one of the nicest swings, it’s a shame he couldn’t produce more with it.

  7. the bishop

    Mar 6, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Paul Lawrie is a major champion and legitimate one. Having said that the 99 Open was far more memorable for how it was lost, not how it was won. Unfair as that may be it is Lawrie’s unfortunate burden to bear. Whether that factors in to his inability to gain Champion’s Tour starts or Father/Son Challenge invites I don’t know. He’s a nice player who outside of one win had a respectable albeit somewhat lackluster career. I suspect that has more to do with it.

  8. Jack

    Mar 6, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Great guy, does so much for golf in Scotland and still a fantastic player when fit. Could win a lot of events on seniors tour if he gets the chance and still capable of a European tour win if fit.

  9. craig

    Mar 6, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    nice work Matty !!!! Joke how he’s struggling to get invites.

  10. cdub

    Mar 6, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    big facts

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Why we play golf

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I played golf the other day with friends. COVID-19 restrictions, but we got out. They will attest that I stunk, but that isn’t news or the basis for this piece.

Normally that kind of golfing experience has me in borderline depression searching for a swing change that I know will allow me to play at my fantasy level. What was remarkably different was the pleasure. Being outside, sunshine, fresh air, joking with friends, enduring the glares from my partner. It was four hours that were singular in their positivity made more so by the daily media barrage of doom and being essentially quarantined for all other activities.

To start, one of the great things about golf is when you play, it requires total concentration—world events, personal issues are put on hold. You see, golf isn’t fun, it’s hard and that element is what brings us joy no matter how small our victories.

I’ve played the game for some 70 years and studied it for 40, working in the industry. One of my favorite exercises over the years has been to ask someone who played recently to describe their best shot of their previous round. Immediate answers flow accompanied by a smile or whimsical expression. Whether it’s a tee shot, a chip, putt, it’s a moment of slaying the dragon. And this is golf. Not an 18 or even 9-hole score—one shot, immediate recall and the reason to play again.

We find ourselves today bordering on panic—daily feeds from the media, warning us, frightening us. For those who play the game, it is a needed respite. There have been some articles, and I’m sure more coming, about what will happen in the distant morning. Massive unemployment, lost wages, and crashing investment portfolios, a small sample. Sadly, the media is going to have bad news to emphasize for months to come and there is no question that some of the collateral damage will be human lives and financial well-being.

It’s easy to sit and critique humans making decisions. But when asked the question about affecting lives now or in the future, it’s way more complex. Political expediency focuses on the now knowing there will be a pivot down the road.

What does all this have to do with golf? The game provides an instant middle ground. People can have four hours in the sun and fresh air and the difficulty involved forces them to temporarily shelve daily tribulations. Even with reduced course services as a precaution, just the chance to go to bed at night knowing the weather looks great and you can escape to the course for a few hours…it’s something that brightens one’s outlook.

So, I’m championing the playing of golf, while accepting various related restrictions. I’m championing a few hours where we can forget the drama, the panic, and get our butts kicked by a little white ball. And when done, we’ll make arrangements to play again.

Oh yes, now that the internet is overflowing with tips from golf teaching experts, I really need to play, because I have this new move that is guaranteed, guaranteed, to produce 12 more yards off the tee. You see, it all has to do with the position of the shaft vs. the left knee and…

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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Opinion & Analysis

By definition, there will be no 2020 U.S. Open. Here’s why the USGA should reconsider

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In 1942, the USGA decided to cancel the U.S. Open because it was scheduled so soon after U.S. entry into WWII.  They did this out of respect for the nation and those called to war. There was a Championship however called The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament, which was contested at Chicago’s  Ridgemoor Country Club. It was a great distraction from the horror of war and raised money for the great cause.

All the top players of the era (except Sam Snead) played, and the organizers (USGA, Chicago Golf Association, and the PGA of America) did hold qualifying at some 70 sites around the country. So effectively, it was the 1942 U.S. Open—but the USGA never recognized it as such. They labeled it a “wartime effort to raise money” for the cause.  Their objection to it being the official U.S. Open was never clear, although the sub-standard Ridgemoor course (a veritable birdie fest) was certainly part of it.

The USGA co-sponsored the event but did not host it at one of their premier venues, where they typically set the golf course up unusually difficult to test the best players. Anyway, Ben Hogan won the event and many thought this should have counted as his fifth U.S. Open win. The USGA disagreed. That debate may never be settled in golfer’s minds.

Ahead to the 1964 U.S. Open…Ken Venturi, the eventual winner, qualified to play in the tournament. His game at the time was a shell of what it was just a few years earlier, but Kenny caught lighting in a bottle, got through both stages of qualifying, and realized his lifelong dream of winning the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Ahead to the 1969 U.S. Open…Orville Moody, a former army sergeant had been playing the PGA Tour for two years with moderate success-at best. But the golfing gods shone brightly upon “sarge” through both stages of qualifying, and the tournament, as he too realized the dream of a lifetime in Houston.

Ahead to 2009 U.S. Open…Lucas Glover was the 71st ranked player in the world and had never made the cut in his three previous U.S. Opens. But he did get through the final stage of qualifying and went on to win the title at Bethpage in New York.

Ahead to 2020…The USGA has decided to postpone the event this year to September because of the Covid-19 virus. This was for the fear of the global pandemic. But this year there is a fundamental difference—the USGA has announced there will be no qualifying for the event. It will be an exempt-only event. By doing so, the event loses it status as an “open event,” by definition.

This is more than a slight difference in semantics.

The U.S. Open, our national championship, is the crown jewel of all USGA events for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is just that: open. Granted, the likelihood of a club professional or a highly-ranked amateur winning the event—or even making the cut—is slim, but that misses the point: they have been stripped of their chance to do so, and have thereby lost a perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity to realize something they have worked for their whole lives. Although I respect the decision from a  health perspective, golf is being played now across the country, (The Match and Driving Relief—apparently safely)

So, what to do? I believe it would be possible to have one-day 36-hole qualifiers (complete with social distancing regulations) all over the country to open the field. Perhaps, the current health crisis limits the opportunity to hold the qualifiers at the normally premier qualifying sites around the country but, as always, everyone is playing the same course and is at least given the chance to play in tournament.

In light of the recent “opening” of the country, I am asking that the USGA reconsider the decision.

 

featured image modified from USGA image

 

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