If there’s a more “forgotten” man than Paul Lawrie heading into the third round of the Masters, I’d like to know who it is. The 1999 Open Championship winner from Aberdeen, Scotland is at three-under-par 141 after 36 holes, two shots behind co-leaders Fred Couples and Jason Dufner. But it’s as if Lawrie’s not playing the Masters, for all the attention he’s getting.
This morning, for instance, I checked a variety of publications and golf websites and found hardly a mention of Lawrie, the 43-year-old who got into the Masters for the first time since 2004 by virtue of moving into the top 50 in the world rankings. Lawrie? Who's he? If you’d like to find out more, and maybe give yourself a rooting interest this weekend in a player who could use a cheering section, check out Lawrie’s website. It’s one of the more interesting and informative player websites.
Even he doesn’t give himself much in the way of credit. “There are a lot of better players than me on the leaderboard,” he told BBC Sport after making birdies the last three holes of his second round to shoot 72. “But if I keep playing well, I might have a chance.”
If you think hard, you probably will recall the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie. Lawrie started the final round 10 shots out of the lead. He was never in the lead, or tied for the lead, until Jean van de Velde triple-bogied the last hole to fall into a playoff against Lawrie and Justin Leonard. Lawrie won. But that Open is known far more for Van de Velde’s meltdown on the final hole rather than for Lawrie sneaking in and claiming the Open.
It used to bother Lawrie a lot when people said he backed into the Open, and that he didn’t deserve to win it. He’s over that. He knows he shot 67 in the last round at Carnoustie, that he won the playoff, and that he took the Claret Jug for winning the Open. He was the champion at that 1999 Open. He earned it.
Meanwhile, for golf-watchers who believe in omens, here’s one. Lawrie won the 1999 Qatar Masters, and then went on to win the Open. Guess which tournament on the European Tour he won this year. That’s right. He won the Qatar Masters in February, which helped him move into the top 50 in the world rankings and secure an invitation to Augusta.
So it was that Lawrie came to Augusta after a flight delay out of London. On Tuesday he went over to a local muni known affectionately as The Patch, where he visited his friend Brian Hendry, a friend who has recently taken on a 12-year-lease to run the course. No course could be more of a contrast to swanky, immaculate Augusta National. But there’s no way Lawrie was going to be in Augusta and not get over to The Patch. Here’s Michael Bamberger’s charming piece that he wrote after visiting The Patch this week - also on Tuesday, when he ran into Lawrie.
Bamberger, by the way, gives Lawrie the respect he deserves. He’s a mensch, this Bamberger. And he’s a terrific writer. Find his work. I know, that’s an aside to this piece about Lawrie. But Bamberger’s book To the Linksland, about his journey to Scotland to play the old game, is excellent. A double-eagle. Really, it is.
Anyway, back to Lawrie. He was suffering from bronchitis recently, and had to take sleeping pills to get some rest. Now here he is at the Masters, a major championship standing two shots out of the lead halfway home.
Give him a look. He can play. Who knows? He could be wearing a green jacket early Sunday evening. Yes, that guy. Paul Lawrie. The 1999 Open Championship winner. Surely you remember him. He’s Paul Lawrie, the forgotten man now contending for the Masters.
RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein