Do You Know This Man?

Do You Know This Man?

Paul Lawrie won the 1999 British Open in a playoff.
James Cheadle

The Lawrie Lowdown

Age: 38
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 200 lbs
Residence: Aberdeen, Scotland
Family: Wife, Marian; children, Craig Robert(1995), Michael (1998)
Turned pro: 1986
World rank when he won the British Open: 159
World rank today: 232
European Tour wins: 5
European Tour earnings: $8,873,145
Ryder Cup record: 3-1-1 (1999)
Hobbies: Aberdeen Football Club, cars

If I am honest, I never thought I could win the British Open. When I got there, the course was set up pretty tough and a lot of players were moaning and groaning, saying it’s not fair. I thought, “Hmm, just chill out here, that’s just the sort of thing you like to hear.” Mentally, half the players didn’t think they could get it round the course. But I was thinking, “Just get on with it — the course is the same for everybody.”

I grew up playing that kind of golf. I played a lot at Cruden Bay and Murcar and courses around Aberdeen that are linksy and hard all year round. Some of my best scores have been in bad weather, and I have obviously got that bad-weather-specialist tag. Ach, it doesn’t bother me when the weather is nasty. I just zip up my jacket and get on with it.

I was always the kid on the putting green with two balls, and one was me and the other was Seve or Nicklaus or Norman. Then all of a sudden I’ve got three putts from four feet to achieve your lifetime’s dream. And it’s a bit strange. There’s no doubt about that.

If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want to win it the way I did. (Jean Van de Velde’s 72nd-hole collapse allowed Lawrie into a playoff.) I would rather be one ahead and hit a great shot into the last and two-putt to win. But you can’t always get the win the way you want to win. Monty would quite like any major win, whatever way it took. And Faldo won two of his Masters by people giving it away. Sometimes you win it well and sometimes you back into it. That’s just the way it is. It happened again last year at the U.S. Open. Monty and Phil Mickelson are two of the best players in the world, but they didn’t close the deal. Ogilvy did, and he deserved to be champion. The U.S. Open trophy is in his house. It’s not in Monty’s house. Or Mickelson’s. And the Claret Jug is in my house.

I don’t need people to blow smoke up my arse to realize I won the British Open. I know I won the Open and that’s all that matters. It doesn’t bother me anymore. It did for a while, because it is not nice to feel you have worked hard and the ultimate goal is to win the British Open and then when you win it, people don’t say how good you were to win it. It is annoying and frustrating and I tried to change that for a while and then realized that I couldn’t do it. I have never got the respect I feel I deserve. I am constantly trying to prove myself. But I know the Claret Jug is in my house and not theirs. And my name is never coming off it.

I have never wanted to be a celebrity. For a long time after the British Open, I struggled with that. I would rather be at the back of the room than the front. But you grow into the whole thing because you don’t really have that option anymore. But I would still much rather sit at the back of the room. I know I am the same guy I was before I won the British Open. My wife wouldn’t allow me to be any different. She wouldn’t put up with me being a prima donna. She’d show me the door.

I knew Sir Alex Ferguson (manager of the Manchester United soccer team) a bit from his days at Aberdeen, and I went down to a Manchester United game. I was in his office and he sat next to me and said, “You must have had some party that night.” And I said, you know, I didn’t really. I only had one beer and I don’t even think I finished it. And he said, “Ach, you’re joking, you must celebrate success. We have had some big parties when we win. It’s gotta be done.” And I must admit it is one of my regrets that we didn’t even have a family meal or a party. But I am not really that kind of guy. I’m not much of a drinker. I don’t go out much. I prefer to sit at home with the kids or watch TV. But I wish we had had a big piss-up.

I don’t have an ego problem when someone doesn’t recognize me — but it’s nice when they do. It’s not something that I need, but it’s obviously nice when I am walking down the street or out shopping and you hear people saying, “There’s that golfer, Paul Lawrie.”

Financially, it is not something you can retire on. One tournament doesn’t set you up for life, no matter how big it is. But it takes away your financial worries. I am not out there worrying about expenses.

It hasn’t always been easy since 1999. It took me a while to win again. The Dunhill Links in 2001 was a huge relief. But the glow has never gone away. I look at the Claret Jug every day when I am home. And my children are now at the age when they can watch the video and go, “Daddy won the British Open.” My daughter says it’s cool.

I had never flown first class or business class until I won the British Open. Now I fly first class whenever I go outside Europe. The children go first class, too. The house that we live in belonged to one of my sponsors, and I’d always said that if we come into any money, this is the house I want. It was for sale during the British Open, and we bought it the day after I won. I am happy. I have an unbelievable life.

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