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The 150th Open

Paul Lawrie


1999 Champion Golfer proud to hit opening tee shot at milestone Open

Paul Lawrie

Being asked to hit the opening tee shot in an Open once in a career is an honour bestowed to a select few golfers, so the opportunity to do so again has left Paul Lawrie suitably humbled.

The 1999 Champion Golfer will begin proceedings at 6.35am on Thursday morning as he continues to prove the man for a landmark occasion, having also got the action underway on the Old Course in 2010 during the 150th Anniversary Open Championship.

Now back to repeat the feat at The 150th Open, Lawrie knows his heart will be beating that little bit faster as he approaches the tee box but is relishing the opportunity to set the tone for what is set to be a gripping four days.

“It is a huge week, a big milestone,” he said. “The more you think about it, actually, it is a nice thing to be asked to do on the 150th.

“I’m always nervous on the first tee, no matter what tournament I’m playing. It is the only time I’m ever nervous when I play, I don’t know why, I’ve always been that way.

“Thursday will be the same, if not more, but luckily it is a nice, wide fairway down there.

“Now I have said that, it will narrow a bit on Thursday morning!”

Lawrie got a feel for how the Old Course is playing during Monday’s Celebration of Champions event, when he was part of a fourball captained by Tom Watson which also included Stewart Cink and Kipp Popert.

This will be the 53-year-old’s sixth Open at the home of golf – his best finish so far being a share of 40th seven years ago – and he is full of praise for the set-up ahead of his latest return.

“It is a proper links out there and the course is looking great,” he said. “As good as I have seen it.

Paul Lawrie with the Claret Jug in 1999

“I have not played [The Open] for a couple of years but I was not going to miss this one.

“I stepped back a bit from playing the full-time stuff but I will play a few more Opens before I’m 60.

“There will not be many more but I was not going to miss this one, it is a big occasion for everyone and it’s always nice to play around the Old Course.”

Lawrie’s crowning glory came 23 miles further up Scotland’s east coast 23 years ago, when he took advantage of Jean van de Velde’s infamous wobble at Carnoustie to complete the biggest final day comeback in major history, triumphing in a play-off having teed off on Sunday ten strokes back.

The defending Champion tag brought its own pressure – as Lawrie recalled with a smile when reminiscing about past occasions on which he has been first on the tee.

“It is funny because when we had the Champions challenge first year, I hit first because I was defending champion and I hit a horrible poor hook and it was only like that from the fence,” he said.

“Tom Weiskopf was next. And as he was walking over, he whispered in my ear, thank […] you went first.

“He hit the same shot. He hit it right next to my ball. The pair of us hit terrible shots down there.

“But the first time we did this thing [Celebration of Champions], there was people everywhere. I would say that's the most nervous I have ever been.”

He will hope for a calmer beginning come Thursday morning, when Webb Simpson and Min Woo Lee will be his playing partners. A relative lie-in awaits ahead of their 11.36am start the following day, not that the early start is fazing the home favourite.

“I will be wide awake by 5am, not a problem,” he said. “It is a great draw for me and I am looking forward to it.

“It is always nice to hit the opening shot. Hopefully it will be calm and you get four hours of decent weather.”