Paul Lawrie ready to play Ryder Cup cheerleader

HE JOINED the ‘Red Army’ in cheering Aberdeen to victory in the League Cup last season. Now Paul Lawrie is set to be part of the ‘Blue and Gold Brigade’ 
supporting Europe at next week’s Ryder Cup.
Paul Lawrie hopes to spark a strong finish to a frustrating season at Celtic Manor this week. Picture: GettyPaul Lawrie hopes to spark a strong finish to a frustrating season at Celtic Manor this week. Picture: Getty
Paul Lawrie hopes to spark a strong finish to a frustrating season at Celtic Manor this week. Picture: Getty

Having helped pull off the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ two years ago, it’s agonising for the Aberdonian to have missed out on the chance to play in the first Ryder Cup to be held in Scotland since 1973.

Adding to his pain is the fact he was then overlooked by Paul McGinley, the European captain, despite the Irishman opting to have five assistants for the eagerly-awaited three-day showdown.

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It’s not Lawrie’s style to either lick his wounds or sulk, though. So, two years after taking centre stage on the PGA Centenary Course as he won the Johnnie Walker Championship, the 45-year-old is ready to take his place behind the ropes there to become a Ryder Cup 

“I’m heading down Friday night [to Gleneagles],” said Lawrie as he prepared to join four members of the European team – Stephen Gallacher, Lee Westwood, Jamie Donaldson and Thomas Bjorn – in the ISPS Handa Wales Open starting 
tomorrow at Celtic Manor.

“The guy that we’ve got our car deal with, Morrison Motors, has a big house, so me and my wife [Marian] are going down to spend the weekend with him. I’ll be walking around with Stevie, hopefully on the Saturday if he’s playing, then definitely on the Sunday.”

As well as playing twice in the Ryder Cup – his debut was in the 1999 match at Brookline – Lawrie was also part of the Sky Sports commentary team when the biennial event was held at this week’s venue four years ago.

Asked how it would feel to be attending the 40th staging and not playing, he replied: “Nae great. But I’m still looking forward to going and enjoying a great event. It’ll be a fantastic atmosphere and there are about ten of us staying in this house – all good pals – so it should be great fun.

“It will feel a bit weird. Obviously I wanted to play, but I can’t, so I just have to look forward to watching. I’ve never been to support at a Ryder Cup. It’s going to be a different experience when I get there – but I’ll enjoy it, get into it, be pulling for all the boys to play well.”

The fervent Aberdeen fan added: “I’m a pretty big shouter at Pittodrie, I get right into it. And I’ll absolutely be giving it all of that at Gleneagles! But people won’t recognise me. I won’t have the usual gear on with all the sponsors’ badges covering me.”

With his uncle Bernard having played in eight Ryder Cups then captaining Europe on three occasions, Gallacher certainly won’t be lacking advice when he stands on the first tee in Perthshire in front of a frenzied home crowd.

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It’s no surprise, though, that he intends to sit down with Lawrie at some point in South Wales over the next day or so to chat about his experiences as well in the transatlantic tussle.

“He doesn’t need me to tell him what’s what – but anything he wants to run past me is fine, obviously,” said Lawrie.

“It’s just whatever he wants to ask. He asked if it was all right to have a sit-down and pick my brains. It’s not an issue. You’ve got to experience the nerves of a Ryder Cup to know what it’s like. But he’ll deal with it.

“He’s been in pressure situations before, he’s won tournaments. When he was defending in Dubai [earlier this year], he played with Tiger [Woods] and Rory [McIlroy]. He knows what it’s all about. Having said that, he has to magnify those experiences by ten, just to get an idea of the feelings he’ll experience.

“But the crowd will help. He’ll know that most of them are there to watch him. And the first time he plays will be amazing. The place will be bouncing.”

Asked what his best bit of advice to his compatriot would be, Lawrie recalled his own debut 15 years ago, when he was paired with Colin Montgomerie and teed off first as they were sent out by Mark James in the opening match.

“I remember when I played practice rounds with Monty, he said that it all happens pretty quickly,” said the 1999 Open champion.

“You have to, not slow down exactly, but just take your time. Make your decisions deliberately.

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“Everything goes by just so quick in that event. Everything is speeded up. Walk at normal pace, that’s important. You can find yourself rushing off when you’re under pressure. But 
Stevie will know all that. He doesn’t need me to tell him. He’ll love it. Absolutely love it.

“There are very few moments when you think: ‘Oh, I’m not so sure about this’. There are a couple of moments when you’ll get that. But it goes pretty quickly.

“No, he’ll just have a ball of a time. Especially with the crowd. I’m gutted I’m not there – but 
delighted for him, obviously.”

As Gallacher licks his lips about seeing a lifelong dream come true, Lawrie is hoping a return to a happy hunting ground – he won here 12 years ago – can spark a strong finish to a frustrating season.

“It’s nice to come back to a place where I’ve done well before, but the game is not great,” he admitted.

“I was all right last week [in the KLM Open] but then had a nightmare finish, lost a ball and bogeyed with the second ball for a triple bogey, then bogeyed the last three holes.

“I was inside the top 20 with four holes to play. I’ve been working hard, but it’s just not happening.”