Memories of striking the first tee shot of The 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club, Brookline, still give Paul Lawrie the shivers, but 13 years after his debut in golf’s greatest team event the former Open Champion can’t wait for a second bite.
For months, despite his strong position on the Ryder Cup Qualification Lists, Lawrie has steadfastly refused to accept he was a certainty for the European Team bound for Chicago until the end of the qualification race, and while this week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles is the final leg of the year-long quest, he cannot be caught and is finally prepared to openly talk about his return to the Ryder Cup fold.
Only one place among the ten automatic qualifiers remains in question with Nicolas Colsaerts, bidding to become the first Belgian to play in The Ryder Cup, needing a finish of no worse than second with two other players to overhaul Martin Kaymer, and the 1999 Open Champion is therefore among the nine certainties.
“It’s nice that it is done,” he said. “It’s been in the back and front of my mind for quite a while as you can imagine. It’s hard to get away from such a big tournament. I’m chuffed to be in, obviously. It's been a long time. It's been 13 years since I played last time, so can't wait.”
Memories of that debut, when playing with Colin Montgomerie he hit the first shot of the opening morning, easily came flooding back.
“Not sure if the opening tee shot will ever go away from me,” he confessed. “I still wake up with wee shivers of it.
“It was not pretty. I was glad I did it, but the 15, 20 minutes beforehand, it was not great.
“But these are things that you look back and you think, it was great to do. You're standing there and there's everything moving apart from the ball, I can assure you. And I hit an alright shot; as long as I didn't miss it, I'd have taken any shot, whatever came out of the bag.
“And if I had a chance to do it again, I'd have to pass the baton on that, been there and done that, and let somebody else have the nerves.”
Lawrie has had a week off since the US PGA Championship, undertaking work with sponsors and concentrating on practice especially with his putting, and after driving down from Aberdeen this morning, will see the modified PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles, host venue for The 2014 Ryder Cup, for the first time tomorrow.
“I haven't seen the changes yet but I'll play it tomorrow in the Pro Am,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that. It's a big week, especially for the Scottish lads, when you play in your home country, and hopefully there will be a big crowd out to watch the boys. Can't wait.”
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