In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Paul Lawrie marks a fitting end to his European Tour playing career as he plays his final event at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
A lot of people have asked if I’ve got mixed emotions about playing in my last European Tour event this week, but I don’t really. When I turned pro, I was 17 years of age and had a five handicap so I never thought I would play even one European Tour event, never mind 620.
It’s not a big deal. I’ve played a lot of tournaments, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ve met some unbelievable people along the way with Tour staff, players, caddies, managers, physios, and I’ve just had a great time. The end is the end, and there’s not much I can do. When you get old you get old. I’ve had a great time, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, but it is the right time to just stick to playing senior golf.
I’m looking forward to playing the Legends Tour hugely, but I don’t think I can compete at this European Tour level for four days in a row anymore, and I’ve always said that if I couldn’t compete I wouldn’t play. I don’t want to take a spot of some young guy coming through because I’m chopping it round in 75 and 76 shots and missing every cut. I don’t want that to be the case, so it’s the perfect time.
The standard out here is just incredible now. It’s the other reason why I’m finishing here. I just don’t know if I can hit the balls I need to be able to hit to keep up with that standard. When I started, there were tournaments where you didn’t have to be under par to make cuts. Nowadays, if you’re over par you’re 100th! Technology has improved too, and it is unbelievable how far the golf ball goes, and how easy it is for the players. Nobody went to the fitness truck here either, until Tiger won in 1997 and the whole golf world changed. But just in general the standard has improved immensely.
I remember Greg Norman said he got to a certain point and he thought ‘wow, everything’s just going wrong, everything’s breaking down’ and I feel like that. I actually had foot surgery two days before the Ryder Cup in Paris. My foot had been bugging me as far back as Medinah, so I decided to get that done, and now I have a herniated disc in my back that’s not behaving well. I’m falling to bits, but when you’ve hit as many balls as I’ve hit there’s no way that can’t happen.
So deciding to finish here at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open is just perfect for me. It was just the last couple of weeks that I thought, ‘you know what, that might not be a bad place to play my last event’. It’s quite a nice place to play your last event– at your national Open. It’s always been special to play in, and the weeks when the Scottish Open and Open Championship have been back-to-back have always been my favourite two weeks of the year. It’s a pity I’ve never won it, but it’s always been a great event, especially when Aberdeen Standard Investments came on board, because the whole thing went up a notch or two. And ASI have been a huge supporter of mine right from the word go. I was their first ever ambassador on the team, so to finish at their event, I think it’s fitting.
Martin Gilbert, the former CEO and Chairman of Aberdeen Standard Investments, did a lot for me, as did local Aberdeen businessman Stewart Spence. They gave me money when I didn’t have anything, and were massive for me coming through the ranks. I also had Adam Hunter as a coach for 20 years, and sadly he’s no longer with us, but he was amazing for me. You’ve still got to do the work yourself to make wins happen, but it makes it a wee bit easier when you’ve got good support around you.
I think as a player, getting that first win was huge for my career. I played a little bit in 1991 as a PGA region player, then I got my European Tour card, and my full first year was 1992. So it was three or four years before I got that first win on the board in Spain back in 1996. It just makes you realise that you can do it, that you can come on this Tour and you can do it. We’ve got loads of players who can play, but actually getting the ball in the hole and winning the tournament is what it’s all about, and you’ve got to have something in you to get the job done. The first win was important to get me going as it gave me a little bit of confidence, and then I won in Qatar in 1999 and of course The Open that year too. Things just snowballed, but there’s a lot of work in there. I’ve hit a lot of balls and my body is starting to break down because of it, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my career, which is amazing.
I’ve never been known as a real ball striker, I’ve always been someone that’s got it around, and I think you need a little bit of that about you to do well out here. All the wins I had, I played nicely in them all, but I didn’t really have a special week in any of them. I’d say that the stand-out for me was at the 2012 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles because it was the best I ever played tee to green. It was the only event where I putted poorly - I didn’t break 30 putts on any day that week - and won because of ball striking. I played phenomenal that week, and it ended up helping me get into The Ryder Cup that year.
Deciding to focus on The Ryder Cup was the reason I skipped the 2012 U.S. Open, but it was also never an event I did well in, it wasn’t my type of golf. I’ve never really been the straightest off the tee or the strongest getting balls out of the rough as I’ve always been quite shallow coming in, so everything was just adding up for me. There was no point in me going there, and with travelling I thought that was basically three tournaments I was taking out of my schedule to play the U.S. Open. I got a lot of stick for the decision, because people don’t like when you’re exempt for a tournament like that and you don’t go, but I stuck to my guns, decided it was the best thing for me, and it worked out perfectly because I got to Medinah.
When I look back, The Ryder Cup at Medinah and my win at The Open at Carnoustie stand above the rest in terms of my career achievements. That four-iron at the Open in the play-off will always be the best shot of my career, and the chip-in at Medinah from the back of the fourth green stands out because it was obviously important at the time. They were both special. Medinah was huge because I hadn’t played for Europe in 13 years. I’d lost my game completely in that spell for a wee while, so to come back from lower than 400th in the world to get a place in the Ryder Cup team and get back into the top 30 in the Official Golf World Rankings again was a huge effort. I did a lot of work, so to get back into Team Europe, and to play with guys I hadn’t played with for a while was amazing for me. And then to come back on Sunday from 10-6 down, to win my singles match, it doesn’t get any better. Medinah was magic. The Open will always be the biggest thing I ever achieved, but Medinah was close.
But with all that said, to me, the more important stuff that I’ve done has been off the course. I think my wife and I have done better work off the course that I’ve ever done on it, and I think that’s nice. I’m proud of what I did on the course, I’ll always be proud of that, but the stuff we’re doing off it, is more important to the two of us. My wife has been there every step of the way. We met when we were very young, and as soon as we got to a level where we thought we could give back we did, because it was always something we wanted to do, and we really enjoy it. Things have just snowballed since.
The more stuff we’ve gotten into and the more people know that we like to do it, the more we’ve taken on. The Tartan Pro Tour was the perfect example of that recently. I wanted to do that for a wee while and it was never the right time, and then this year the EuroPro Tour was cancelled and it became the perfect time to start our own professional tour circuit. Neil Fenwick won our Order of Merit recently and to see him playing in his first Tour event this week is huge for us. That was what that Tour was designed for, to give guys like him the opportunity to step up.
Proud to support Scottish Golf for men, women, boys and girls at all levels of the game. Driving accessibility and inclusion within the sport.— Aberdeen Standard Investments UK (@ASInvestmentsUK) September 25, 2020
Congrats to @neil_fenwick on qualifying for the @ScottishOpen through the @tartanprotour series 👏#ASISO #DevelopingScottishTalent pic.twitter.com/d6ye6MktVd
I’m really busy now off the course. Not that golf really gets in the way but I don’t really have time now to play 20 or 25 events a year, travel the whole week and put the effort in and time that is required to keep your game at a certain level.
I spend most of my time split between our Five Star sports agency, the Tartan Pro Tour, the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre and the Paul Lawrie Foundation, and I hit about 100 balls a day, whereas it would have been 1,000 balls a day when I was practicing properly and playing. I actually enjoy all that stuff probably more than playing now. My back’s not good, I can’t hit it the way I want to hit it, and the way I used to, and I’m quite happy doing what I’m doing.
As for what’s next, I’ve definitely got ambitions on the Legends Tour. I’m not saying I’m going to beat them all, all of the time, but I feel as if I can win a few and that I can do well. The courses are shorter and aren’t as tough. Obviously, the course is set up beautifully this week but it’s tough if you miss the fairway out there, and you won’t have that as much on the Legends Tour. You can get it on the green, the holes are a little bit shorter, and it’s three rounds instead of four. So I’m looking forward to it, but I need to do a bit of work this winter. It’s nice to be an ambassador for the Tour, and it has got some huge potential, so I’m going to put all of my attention into that and what I do outside of the game.