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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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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Sounding off on your favorite golf pet peeves!

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Steve and Knudson weigh in on your favorite golf pet peeves. From not fixing ball marks, to slow play, to guys telling you “good shot” when you make a quad! Knudson shot a 33 in his league and still thinks he isn’t a sandbagger.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

Justin Thomas talks TrackMan numbers, when he’ll switch to Titleist 620 MB irons, and more

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Fresh off his dominant BMW Championship win at Medinah, Justin Thomas joined Johnny Wunder for a Special Edition Gear Dive chat.

Here are a few highlights from JT and JW talking through some of Thomas’ Titleist equipment, his straightforward approach to fitting, changing clubs, his stock distances, and more.

On choosing his Titleist 718 MB irons

“My rookie year I picked up an iron they were testing…I was like, “is it possible to get irons like this?”…Ever since then, I’ve never wanted to use anything else…they look good, and they’re nice.”

On the reason why he put a Titleist T100 4-iron in the bag recently

“That’s exactly right. [that he put the iron in the bag for height]. I kind of was struggling getting the 4-iron up in the air, and I wasn’t really holding greens very well…this club is really unbelievable. You can really do a lot with it. I can hit it as far as I need to and hit it low if I want.”

On switching to the new 620 irons

“It’ll be very easy…I’ll throw ‘em in the bag [when I start practicing again after the season ends].”

On his elementary approach to choosing a fairway wood shaft 

“I went to the fitting. I hit it. It looked good, and the numbers were good. They said that was about as good as I could get, and I said, “sounds good.”

On not knowing that his wedge shafts were different from his iron shafts 

“I found out last year that I have different shafts in my irons and wedges. I had no idea.”

On Titleist as a whole 

“First and foremost I think it’s the best equipment across the board…I’ve used Titleist my whole life, and I’m just lucky now I get to get paid by them…I would use it if I wasn’t getting a dime from them…I like the people, I trust in them…they’ve just a great all-around company.”

On tinkering

“I think a lot of…people get in trouble trying to change too much…the game is hard enough, you don’t need to make it any harder.”

On switching putters

“For me when I putt well, it’s all about speed…I was struggling there for a bit, so I just kind of wanted to look at something different, but it was a bad decision…I should have stuck with what’s won me all of my tournaments [Scotty Cameron X5-style putter]”

Stock carry distances (4, 7, SW) and TrackMan numbers with driver 

Driving range 4-iron: 231 (“I can get it up to 240 in the air”)
7-iron: “185 is normal; I can get it to low 190s”
57.5 wedge: 112

Clubhead speed: 118-120
Ball speed: mid-to-high 170s

“When I hit up on it, I can carry it 320…but when I hit that low bullet, it’s probably only going to carry 270.”

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Time for you to talk and me to listen

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I’ve really been enjoying sharing thoughts and insights with all you GolfWRX readers the past few months. And as I expected, I’ve “won a few and lost a few” with regard to offering what you consider useful information. It is always difficult writing for an audience so diverse in experience, attitudes and opinions, but your feedback keeps me on my toes…as it should be.

So, this week the GolfWRX leadership agreed to allow me to give you a chance to tell us more about your own game and how you play it. At the bottom of today’s post is a link to the first “Wedge Guy/GolfWRX Survey.” I hope you will find the questions interesting and that you will share your own insights into the intricate relationship with golf that you all certainly enjoy. Please make note of your answers so that you can compare them to your fellow GolfWRXers when we begin to share the results of the survey in a few weeks.

On a current event note, however, I found Monday morning’s stories about Justin Thomas’ convincing victory over the field and Medinah #3 this weekend quite interesting. In comparison to his 25-under destruction of venerable old Medinah, Lou Graham won the U.S. Open there in 1975 with a score of +3, with the course just under 7,000 yards. Since then, Medinah #3 has hosted several other major championships—getting ever longer but still seeing the scores go lower and lower. It would be hard to argue that Thomas (and the field) completely dismantled the old girl at 7,600 yards, with the course record tied, then broken by two shots, then broken by two shots again. All in one weekend.

Some leading pros made very telling comments about the fact that “long” is not an obstacle for these guys anymore; that the drivers and balls of today are so forgiving they just swing as hard as they can. Add in “soft”, and they have a green light to tear down flags and shoot these ultra-low scores. This is just the way the game has evolved at the highest level—hit driver as hard as you can, find it, hit a towering short iron or wedge into a soft green, like throwing darts.

It’s just not the same game as was played at the highest level when the major venues challenged the golfers’ entire games—driver to long irons to wedges to putting. When was the last time we saw tour professionals tested at the long end of their bags? In contrast, when Johnny Miller won the U.S. Open in 1973 at Oakmont, I think he could only reach one par 5 in two shots and hit something like 13 or 14 approach shots with a 5-iron or longer…and he shot 63! That’s pretty amazing, huh? And a far cry from the short iron and wedge dominance of approach shots today.

Anyway, I’m not saying it was better or worse back then…just that it was a different set of challenges for the professional golfer. But I believe the rest of us pretty much play the same game as back then—testing every club in our bags every round we play.

But back to the Survey. Please take a few minutes and give thought to the 27 questions about you, your long game and your short game, and how you play the game in general. I think it will be quite insightful for all of us at GolfWRX, and for you all too, as you compare your answers to your fellow GolfWRXers.

Here’s the link to the survey. Thanks!

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