Thursday, 19 July 2012
Paul Lawrie  (Getty Images)
Paul Lawrie (Getty Images)
Paul Lawrie was just one behind clubhouse leader Adam Scott midway through the first round of The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

The Scot, a Claret Jug winner at Carnoustie 13 years ago, chipped in twice in his first five holes en route to a five under par 65.

That was one behind Australian Scott, who had a chance to record the lowest score in Major Championship history when he stood on the 18th tee needing a birdie for a 62.

Instead he pulled his tee shot into the rough and bogeyed, but his 64 was still a fine effort.

Former Masters Tournament winner Zach Johnson was level with Lawrie on five under, one ahead of Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, who was four under with two to play.

Lawrie’s effort matched his lowest-ever score in The Open Championship.

The 43 year old, who came from a Major record ten shots behind on the final day to triumph at Carnoustie in 1999, chipped in on the third and fifth holes and had another birdie in between.

Then, after dropping his only stroke of the day on the eighth, he picked up three more shots over the closing five holes, including a three footer at the last.

His previous 65 came in the final round at Sandwich in 1993, when he finished sixth.

Lawrie has missed seven cuts in The Open since his shock victory, achieved when he was 159th in the Official World Golf Ranking and in a play-off after France's Jean Van de Velde triple-bogeyed the 18th when three clear.

“It was probably the strangest start of my career, the first six holes - I didn't really hit many good shots and I was three under," said the Scot.

"I chipped in twice and holed it from off the green. We get enough bad luck so it is nice when it goes your way now and again.

"Obviously after that I hit some really nice shots, played some solid golf, and ended up with a good score.

"The weather helps, it is almost flat calm out there, so I would imagine there will be some good scores.

"Overall I think I drove the ball solidly, hit it in the right place and I rolled the ball pretty nicely."

The par four sixth was an eventful hole for the former champion and playing partner Davis Love.

Firstly, Lawrie was just about to unleash a drive when he was halted as Matt Kuchar, in the group behind, wandered on to the fairway - there is a 50 yard walk back to the tee box - having finished the previous hole.

After the American apologised Lawrie pulled his drive into the left rough and, after hacking out, then watched as Love shanked his approach 50 yards off line and on to the third green.

Lawrie eventually holed a long putt from the back of the green for par and was grateful.

"When you hit it where I hit it off the tee you are kind of accepting a five in your mind, so it is not a bad thing to get it back in play and give yourself a chance and hole a nice putt," he added.

Asked whether the interruptions had affected him he joked: "I'm just a cool dude.

"I'd had my practice swing and was getting ready to hit and then someone said 'Kuchar's there' and he was walking across.

"It can happen as we are in our own world sometimes but it was quite funny when he put his hands up."

The cream had certainly risen to the top - with no fewer than six Major Champions in the top eight on the leaderboard.

That included Lawrie, Johnson, McDowell and former World Number One Tiger Woods, but it was a player yet to join that exclusive club who they were chasing in the form of Scott.

Scott, who has recorded just one top ten in 12 previous appearances in The Open, had the chance to create history when he stood seven under with two to play, but the 31 year old had to settle for equalling the lowest Open round at Lytham, which was set by Tom Lehman on his way to The Claret Jug in 1996.

Meanwhile Johnson was looking for a second win in succession after claiming the John Deere Classic on Sunday.

South African Ernie Els, champion at Muirfield in 2002, and current Masters Tournament champion Bubba Watson returned matching rounds of 67, while former US Open Champion McDowell bogeyed the last to join them.

Scott admitted he had been thinking about shooting the first 62 in Major Championship history, albeit at a slightly inopportune time.

"I know there's never been a 62 and when I was waiting to use the bathroom going to the 17th tee I did a look at the leaderboard and realised it was a par-70," the World Number 13 said.

"And I also probably then realised that I wasn't going to be the guy to shoot 62.

"It's one of those things that you don't want to go through your mind, thinking about your final score and stuff like that.

"So I got rid of that quickly and got on to playing the 17th, but unfortunately dropped one up the last."

Scott finished eighth in the Masters Tournament and 15th in the US Open this year, despite shooting opening rounds of 75 and 76 respectively, and revealed his caddie Steve Williams - who worked for Woods during 13 of his 14 Major wins - had helped focus his mind on making a fast start.

"We talked about that mindset because I was playing well at all the Majors this year, but the first round I'm shooting myself in the foot a little bit and making it too much work to get back in it," he added.

"And he [Williams] wanted me to go to that first tee today like it was the 72nd hole and you have three to win. Really switch yourself on from the first hole. That was a good little trigger he kind of helped out with."

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