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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

College golf recruiting: The system works

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Yesterday, one of the parents I consult with on college placement asked me what the lessons are from the recent college admissions scandal for her and her son. What are the takeaways?

Michael Young, who coined the phrase in 1956, writes, a meritocracy is “the society in which the gifted, the smart, the energetic, the ambitious and the ruthless are carefully sifted out and helped towards their destined positions of dominance.” For decades higher education has embraced the meritocracy, creating an effective system which it funnels students with amazing precision to school that matches their academic ability, courtesy of indicators like GPA, SAT and class rank. So why would people work to circumvent this system? Ignorance and entitlement; the members of this scandal were driven by having the right brand name to tell their friends at dinner parties, not the welfare of their children.

In my own experience, I have seen families put their kids into months of hardcore standardized prep, while signing up for six to eight sittings of the SAT under the guise of trying to get to a better school, all while balancing practice and tournament golf. The problem is that this does not make you a good parent, it makes you an asshole.

In my own examination of data in the college signing process over the past three years, I have found only three outliers in Division One Men’s Golf at major conference schools. Each of these outliers had a NJGS ranking outside of the top 1000 in their class with scoring differentials above 3.5. They also each had a direct and obvious connection with the school. They leveraged the relationship and had their children admitted and put on the roster. Success! Unfortunately, none of the players appeared on the roster their sophomore year. Why? By the numbers, these players are 6 shots worst than their peers. That’s 24 shots over a four-round qualifier.

Obviously, it needs to be said again; the best junior players (boys and girls) are excellent. Three years of data suggest that players who attend major conference schools have negative scoring differentials close to 2. This means that they average about 2 shots better than the course rating, or in lay terms; have a plus handicap in tournaments. This is outstanding golf and a result of a well thought out and funded plan, executed over several years.

There is no doubt that the best players have passed through top tier programs in recent years, however, they have entered these programs with accolades including negative scoring differentials and successful tournament careers, including a pattern of winning. In order to compete at the professional level, players must meticulously try and mirror these successes in college. The best way to do it? Attend a school where the prospective student-athlete can gain valuable experience playing and building their resume. For a lot of junior golfers, this might not be the most obvious choice. Instead, the process takes some thought and looking at different options. As someone who has visited over 800 campuses and seen the golf facilities, I can say that you will be surprised and impressed with just how good the options are! Happy searching.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: World Long Drive Champ Maurice Allen

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In this episode of the Gear Dive brought to you by Fujikura Golf, Johnny chats with Remax World Long Drive Champion Maurice Allen on where he started, his crazy equipment specs and why he relies on his eyes over the numbers.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

This could be Rickie Fowler’s year to get the major monkey off his back

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When Rickie Fowler first emerged on Tour, he was supposed to take the game by storm. The golf media raved about his talent and ramped up the potential of a “big two” that included him and Rory McIlroy. Fowler and McIlroy were supposed to compete as the sole forces in golf, like the Tiger and Phil of a new generation.

However, golf never goes according to a script, and it particularly hasn’t for Rickie Fowler. At age 30, and without a major, momentum has slowed behind Fowler despite him having five PGA Tour and two European Tour victories on his resume. Commentators, who were once sure that Fowler would be a golfing great, now doubt his winning abilities. However, I have a feeling that 2019 may be Rickie’s year; and by the years’ end, we will all be speaking of him in a whole new way.

After finishing in the top five in every major in 2015, a major win looked very close to the grasp of Rickie Fowler. But, it hasn’t been that smooth sailing for the 2010 Rookie of the Year. Majors have evaded Fowler’s grip thus far despite his best efforts, and some good tries. He finished one shot short of eventual winner Patrick Reed in last year’s Masters, despite shooting twelve under par on the weekend; a great example of many near misses for Rickie.

With every miss, the tag of being “the greatest golfer without a major” is packed more and more into the identity of Fowler. But, that tag shouldn’t necessarily by an insult. Players like Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson have all received the same designation in the past. Each man has had his record questioned, and his ability to win examined, but every man has since won a major and will no doubt make their way to the hall of fame. Fowler will do too, and 2019 will go some way to helping his cause.

Fowler’s game looks to be in great shape, and vastly improved from previous years. Statistically, Fowler’s most significant improvement this season has been in his putting. He is eighth in the strokes gained-putting category, a marked growth from 43rd in that section last year. With great putting being the games most sought after skill, and a much-needed attribute for a consistent winner; it is interesting to see just how good Fowler is in that area. He is also third in scoring average, 33rd in driving distance and sixth in the birdie average category. It seems that Fowler is acing the test in all of the most crucial statistical areas. His game is in excellent shape, and everything seems to be pointing in his direction.

Rickie won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February in spite of a rag-tag final round. Most impressively, Rickie rescued his final round in Phoenix by birdieing two of the last four holes. Fowler’s ability to shoot a final round 3-over-par 74 at TPC Scottsdale demonstrated immense courage. Perhaps that newfound courage stems from his many near-misses. Some see the fact he is without a major at 30 as a curse, but it may be a blessing. We saw in Phoenix how Rickie now has the skill to keep his ailing rounds alive and to resurrect them when they look dead. It is now becoming clear that Fowler’s near misses have made him stronger and a better all-around golfer. He may not have the wins to date that most expected, but he is better off for it.

Rickie’s career bears comparisons to Justin Rose, a player who had struggled and often limped through his career when many thought he would be flying. Like Fowler, Rose learned from his mistakes and has achieved his best results in his 30s. Among many victories, Rose has a U.S. Open Trophy, an Olympic gold medal, and a FedEx Cup in his 30s. Fowler should take heed of the World Number Two’s achievements and be encouraged that he can emulate or even surpass them.

With the Masters on the horizon, don’t be surprised to see Rickie at the top of leaderboards and winning serious golf tournaments. Fowler is a better player than he has ever been, and after a great start to the year, he will surely rise to the occasion this season.

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