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‘There were guys greeting because they qualified – it’s something I’ve never taken lightly’ – Paul Lawrie on his 27th Open

Paul Lawrie will compete at St Andrews next week.
Paul Lawrie will compete at St Andrews next week.

Paul Lawrie never imagined he would play in the Open – let alone win the tournament.

With the 150th Open championship just days away from the Home of Golf, St Andrews, Aberdonian Lawrie will celebrate a milestone of his own.

It was 30 years ago when Lawrie made his first Open appearance at Muirfield and it was one to savour as he finished 22nd on his debut.

Now, as he prepares to make his 27th Open appearance, the 53-year-old not only has the honour of competing once more, but he will do so as a former Open champion following his famous win at Carnoustie in 1999.

Lawrie has been synonymous with the event which gave him the biggest win of his career, thanks to his stunning performance in a thrilling final round 23 years ago.

But as he prepares for a sixth Open appearance at St Andrews, the Scot is grateful still to have the opportunity to take part.

When reminded of the fact his first appearance came three decades ago, Lawrie said: “I feel old anyway, but you’ve made me feel mega-old now, thanks for that.

“It’s not bad going is it? I never honestly thought I’d play one so to play that many is lovely.

“It’s a big event, it’s a great spectacle and you see how much it means to people to qualify for it.

“There were guys greeting because they qualified last Tuesday, so to be taking part in my 27th is special. It’s something I’ve never taken lightly or for granted.”

Celebration of Champions kickstarts a memorable week at the Home of Golf

Paul Lawrie kisses the famous Claret Jug after securing the 1999 Open Championship.

Lawrie has more than the honour of playing in the tournament to look forward to. He will also take part in the Celebration of Champions on Monday.

The four-hole event featuring men, women, amateurs and disability champions all taking part over the first, second, 17th and 18th holes, kicks off a week of celebrations – with Monday’s opener followed by the Champions Dinner on Tuesday evening.

As select company goes, being in a room of former winners is as privileged as you would expect.

Lawrie said: “I’m definitely playing in the Celebration of Champions, which I wouldn’t miss, and then we have the Champions Dinner on the Tuesday night, which is, without question, the coolest dinner I’ve ever been at.

“It’s a joke how cool it is to sit in the room with all these guys who have won the Open. It doesn’t get any better than that.

“It’s a massive anniversary for the tournament and for the R&A it will be a massive week.

“I’ve got a fair bit on as a past champion, but that’s good. It shows how much it means to the R&A and it is going to be pretty cool for the players to be part of it all.”

Former Open champion in good form ahead of St Andrews return

Lawrie opted not to take part in the 149th edition of the Open at Royal St George’s last year, but there was no chance he was missing this one.

He said: “This is something you would want to play in as a player.

“I said when I retired from the main tour I wouldn’t play unless I felt I could compete and on the Open venues you can get it round a bit easier than the everyday full tour events.

“Links courses are a bit different in that respect.”

Lawrie’s form heading into the event is as good as he could hope for after winning the Farmfoods European Legends Links Championship in Cornwall on June 19, a week after finishing runner-up at the Jersey Legends.

The decision to really commit to the events clearly paid off in terms of preparation for his return to St Andrews.

He said: “I’m looking forward to it. I’m playing nicely, have been doing a bit more work, so I think I should be alright.

“I haven’t been playing much golf in general, but it’s not as if I haven’t been hitting a few balls.

“Once you start playing golf for a living you hit balls every day anyway, but there has been so many other things going on which my focus was on.

“If I am going to play seniors golf, which I am doing, as a competitive person I needed to put more time and effort into it.

“Straight away I played lovely in Jersey and Cornwall and could easy have won them both.”

Paul Lawrie has been in good form in 2022.

With a win and a runner-up finish recorded from his recent displays, Lawrie is in a positive frame of mind ahead of his visit to the Home of Golf.

But do not expect him to get carried away.

Lawrie said: “There are certain tournaments where the mindset is a little different.

“I’m not stupid, I know exactly how good the field will be the Old Course and, for someone who is 53 years of age and doesn’t play full-time golf, making the cut is a decent effort round there for me.

“I am a competitive person, but I’m not going there in the mindset I would have had 10 or 15 years ago.

“In the back of my mind, I know if I play half decent I might have a good week, but I would surprise myself if I was in contention.”

Lawrie will play as long as he feels competitive

Paul Lawrie teeing off on the seventh hole (Championship) at Royal Dornoch.

With The Paul Lawrie Golf Centre celebrating its 10th birthday this year, his foundation, his sports agency and his support of the Tartan Tour, Lawrie has plenty going on to keep him busy off the golf course.

Golf is but one of his areas of focus these days, and he remains reluctant to make predictions about a timescale for his future as a tournament golfer.

He said: “I had given a little thought to not playing much more, because if I was honest I actually enjoy the other things I’m involved in more than playing.

“But I decided, if I was going to take part in Jersey, I should practise and play every day then see how it went.

“By the end of the week, I had hit the ball well, then went to Jersey and had a chance to win and followed it up by winning in Cornwall a week later.

“I will play a little bit more, but I’m still not going to play full-time. I’m not going to stop, but the days of me playing a full tour season are gone.

“I would hate to think I was taking a spot from somebody unless I was competitive.

“But I am competitive every time I play on the senior tour, so that’s the tour I will stick to playing on.”

As for his future Open participation? With an exemption in place until the age of 60, it seems the 1999 champion is keeping an open mind.

Lawrie said: “I’ve not made any decision other than seeing how this year goes. I will never come out and say I’m not going to play, as your mind changes quite quickly as a golfer.

“I still had three years of my exemption left when I stopped on the European Tour, but I made the decision to stop as I knew I wouldn’t be able to compete against these guys given how they hit the ball.

“But the Open is different. You never know what the future holds, but I would like to think I will play more – this won’t be my last appearance.”