Blossoming Lawrie targets further success
GOLF: Paul Lawrie (pictured) rates himself a better golfer now at aged 43 than he was when he won the British Open in 1999. Nobody who saw the Scot's four-shot victory at the Qatar Masters yesterday would argue with that self-assessment.
Lawrie fired a joint best-of-the-day 65 to leave Australian Jason Day and Swede Peter Hanson a distant joint second, with 45-year-old American John Daly two strokes further back in fourth place.
Before he ended nine years without a win last March, Lawrie was down at 272nd in the world. Now he is back in the top 50 for the first since since 2003 -- and fourth in the race for the Ryder Cup. Lawrie's only appearance against the Americans came two months after his Carnoustie triumph 13 years ago.
"I feel I'm getting better," he said. "I feel my ball-striking has improved immensely since I turned 40.
"I'm hitting it a lot further than I probably ever hit it. My short game and putting was a little better back in 1999, but I'm a much better player."
Lawrie's climb up the rankings has put him into the 64-man line-up for the Accenture world match play championship in Arizona later this month.
But there is an even bigger prize to come if he is still in the top 50 at the end of next month -- The Masters.
"I haven't played (at Augusta) since 2004, so that's quite exciting," he said.
"The hard work I did over the last couple of years is obviously paying off. I'm not someone who looks ahead very much. I like to take it one week at a time, but I feel good.
"The Ryder Cup is a long way off and there's a lot of golf to be played. It would be silly to sit here and say that I'm going to get on the team, but I would love to."
Lawrie is in the field for this week's Dubai Desert Classic and it was just up the road from the Emirates Club that his current run of four successive top-10 finishes started.
He was runner-up to Alvaro Quiros at the Dubai World Championship in December and then started this season by coming 10th at the Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa and eighth in the Abu Dhabi Championship.
Daly, focusing on the European Tour after losing his card in the USA, will also be there as he tries to build on his best performance since he was runner-up in the 2009 Italian Open.