Friday, 19 March 2010
Johnnie Walker Championship - Round One  (Getty Images)
Johnnie Walker Championship - Round One (Getty Images)

Scotland's Paul Lawrie warmed the hearts of his countrymen in testing, wet conditions to lead the field after the opening day of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.

The 1999 Open Champion mastered the afternoon deluge  to card a superb five under par 67 - the perfect start to his latest bid for a first victory since The Celtic Manor Wales Open in 2002.

The 40 year old broke clear of a group of four players on four under par to head into the second round one stroke ahead of  fellow Scot Steven O'Hara, Australian Wade Ormsby, Sweden’s Âke Nilsson and defending champion Grégory Havret.

Ironically, at a time when Scotland's recent lack of European Tour success has been highlighted in the media, Lawrie and O'Hara showed that the host nation do not lack talent. Lawrie did not drop a stroke all day and the highlight was a 40 foot putt for an eagle on the long ninth.

At The Open Championship last month he sought help from Padraig Harrington's coach Bob Torrance and since then has made the journey from Aberdeen to Largs - three hours each way - five or six times.

"And I hate driving," he said. "I looked into hiring a helicopter, but it was £2,000 for the trip and I thought that was too much.

"I get up at 4.30am to avoid the Glasgow traffic and be there for 7.30 and then we have four and a half hours hitting balls before I go home. The first time I saw him Bob said he didn't see it as a major overhaul, but David Leadbetter once said that swing changes take 10,000 balls or 10,000 hours - I can't remember which.

"I didn't do what we worked on the first time I played. He didn't give me a talking to, but said we are a team and we have to work this out together. I'm hitting more balls and swinging in my room to get the feeling and it feels fantastic.

"It's been too long since I won. I've always wanted to work with him, but it's not been the right time. I think it's the right time now."

Havret got to five under then had bogeys at the fifth and seventh, but finished by picking up another shot.

One of his earlier birdies came on the 12th, which because of Wednesday's heavy and prolonged rain had been reduced from a 445 yard par four to a driveable 280 yard one.

Last year the hole was a par five, but it was decided to change it with The 2014 Ryder Cup in mind.

“My driving was really, really consistent and that was definitely the key,” said Havret. “It's obviously a very good test as a driving course, and if you don't miss any fairways, you have a good chance to go low, and that's what happened.”

Former Walker Cup player O'Hara, who became a father three weeks ago, birdied five of the last eight holes for his 68, while in stark contrast Ormsby reached seven under and then double bogeyed the short 17th and dropped another shot on the par five last.

“I slept in the spare room last night,” said O’Hara, who at 181st on The Race to Dubai needs a strong finish to the season in order to secure his card for next season. “The wee one is only three weeks old, so he needs to be fed and winded every three to four hours - it's quite tiring trying to feed him and all that. So I had a decent sleep last night for the first time in a while.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1HEDBLOM, PeterSWE18-13
2ERLANDSSON, MartinSWE18-12
T3LAWRIE, PaulSCO18-10
T3HAVRET, GrégoryFRA18-10
5ORR, GarySCO18-9
T6KAPUR, ShivIND18-8
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