Paul Lawrie will add another honour to his glittering CV at this week’s Volvo World Match Play Championship when he makes his 500th European Tour appearance, joining an illustrious group of players to achieve the landmark feat.
The 1999 Open Champion was presented with a special engraved ice bucket by Keith Waters, the European Tour’s Chief Operating Officer and Director of International Policy, at host venue Finca Cortesin, in Spain, ahead of becoming the 22nd European Tour player to become a member of the exclusive 500 club.
He is only the second Major Champion to reach the milestone after 1991 Masters Tournament winner Ian Woosnam and the fourth Scot to reach 500 appearances, joining former Ryder Cup Captain Sam Torrance, who holds the European Tour record with 706 appearances, Gordon Brand Jnr (597) and Colin Montgomerie (570).
Lawrie made his European Tour debut 20 years ago in the 1992 Johnnie Walker Asian Classic, winning his first of seven titles four years later in the Open Catalonia, and after a recent renaissance, he admits he is enjoying his golf more than ever as he continues to enjoy competing at the very top level.
“When I turned pro at 17 as a five handicap in 1986 and then got to play with these boys each week – anything that happened after that was a bonus,” he said. “I think that’s helped me, longevity‑wise. I still see it as, ‘I can’t believe I’m out here winning and competing’.
“I still enjoy playing. I think I play more for fun now than I used to do with my sons coming up and being good golfers. I think playing with them is a help. About three or four years ago, I thought I might just scale this down a bit and play a little bit less. Then the boys got pretty keen into golf and I started playing a bit more at home and I’ve kicked on a bit again.
He added: “I can see me getting to 600 appearances now. To get to 700, where Sam is at, is a huge number. Playing for 40 years is just an incredible record. I think we’ll leave Sam at the top for a while. I don’t think I’m in danger of overtaking him but I’d like to get to 600.”
Lawrie, who passed the €10 million career earnings mark earlier this season, became part of golfing folklore with his career-high victory at Carnoustie in The 1999 Open Championship when he famously came from a European Tour-record equalling ten shots back to claim the Claret Jug, defeating Frenchman Jean Van de Velde in a four hole play-off.
“In the play-off it was amazing how this feeling came over me and everything was clear and I just knew what I was doing and I was focused and I wasn’t harassed,” he said. “There were people everywhere and there was a circus inside the ropes and I just remember being really, really calm. It’s amazing how you can get in that position.”
That performance helped him earn a place in the European Team for The 1999 Ryder Cup when he had the honour of hitting the opening tee shot, playing alongside Montgomerie. He went on to win an impressive three-and-a-half points out of a possible five, including defeating Jeff Maggert in his singles match, to equal the record points total gained by a rookie alongside Paul Way (1983) and Sergio Garcia (also 1999).
After receiving an MBE in 2000 and following his Open Championship victory by winning the Alfred Dunhill Links title in 2001 and the Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open in 2002, leaner times followed, with Lawrie left contemplating his appetite for the game as he struggled for form.
However, with a renewed vigour for the game, he emerged from a nine year spell without a European Tour victory when he won the Open de Andalucía last season and he returns toSpainthis week having already added another title in 2012, following success for a second time in the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy in February.
That victory means he is seriously targeting a return to The Ryder Cup fold at the age of 43, an incentive that is spurring on the man fromAberdeen, who launched the hugely successful Paul Lawrie Foundation in 2001 to encourage and support the next generation of players.
“If I get in The Ryder Cup, it would be the biggest achievement of my career, so that’s the motivation,” he said. “I really want to play on that team. It would be huge for me.
“I’m 43, but I feel like there is a wee bit left in the tank yet.”
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