Paul Lawrie (Getty Images)
Paul Lawrie put himself in position to mark his Ryder Cup return with a victory by moving a shot clear after three rounds of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
A win in Qatar and top three finishes in the BMW PGA Championship and Volvo World Match Play have secured the Scot a place on Europe’s Team 13 years after he made his debut in Boston ahead of this, the final qualifying event.
Lawrie celebrated with seven birdies in a third round 67 to reach 12 under par, one ahead of France’s Romain Wattel – who went round in a 63 which would have equalled Pierre Fulke’s course record but for placing being allowed on the fairways.
While Nicolas Colsaerts battled into a share of 13th as he tries to secure the top-two finish that will earn him a Ryder Cup debut, Lawrie had his focus solely on trying to win on home spoil for the third time.
The first of those was the 1999 Open Championship - the victory that led to his Ryder Cup debut - and then he added the Dunhill Links title at St Andrews in 2001.
Lawrie ended nine years without a victory in Spain last year and has looked good for a second cap ever since he triumphed in Qatar in February and then finished runner-up to Luke Donald at Wentworth in May.
He resumed one behind joint halfway leaders Mark Foster and Richard Finch, but the two Englishmen shot 75 and 78 respectively.
Lawrie calmly went about his work, though. Three birdies took him to the turn in 33 and while he did bogey the tenth and 15th there were also four more birdies on the inward half.
The last of them came despite his ball plugging in the sand by the green at the long 16th. He holed an eight footer there, then got up and down from another bunker at the next, and hopes to use the crowd’s support to his advantage on Sunday.
“The support has been good all week to be fair,” he said. “It's nice to see them all.
“And both Monty and Stephen Gallacher had a good score today, so they have seen some good golf by the Scottish boys.”
Asked if experience had served him well the 43 year old from Aberdeen smiled and answered: "I'm just old!"
Not as old as his 1999 Cup partner Colin Montgomerie, but the 49 year old believes again he might yet become The European Tour's oldest-ever winner - if not now, then very soon.
After a 69 for seven under Montgomerie said: "That's the best golf I've played in a number of years. I'm very disappointed not to shoot a lot lower.
"My belief was non-existent. This has re-ignited some fire, which is great."
Wattel was delighted with his performance, as the former Qualifying School graduate continues his quest for a first top-three finish at this level.
“It was really nice,” he said. “I really enjoy every time you score low.
“I especially enjoyed today, because it's a tough course, so for the third round, I needed a really good score to be back in the game and that's what I did. I'm really, really happy.
“I didn't focus on the score - I just tried to play my best and to focus on each shot.”