2002: PGA European - Lawrie survives 36 in fine fashion

Newport, Wales

Even after a victory that was about as comfortable as it gets in professional golf, Paul Lawrie was exhausted.

Lawrie, forced to play 36 holes Aug. 11 because of weather delays earlier in the week, shot back-to-back 70s for a five-stroke victory in the Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open.

After completing a 7-under-par 65 in the second round Saturday, Lawrie had said he would be up to the task facing him Sunday.

“I feel very fit,” Lawrie said. “I’ve been working at building up my fitness slowly over a long period. I have lost weight, but gained a little strength. . . . The prospect of 36 holes tomorrow wouldn’t worry me.”

The next day, the Scotsman was just glad it was over.

“I am so tired you wouldn’t believe it,” Lawrie said after earning his first PGA European Tour victory of the year and the fifth of his career. “I struggled at the end of this morning’s round, and it was the same thing in the afternoon.”

He finished at 16-under 272, five shots ahead of England’s John Bickerton and six ahead of Finland’s Mikko Ilonen, to claim the winner’s check of 291,432 euros (approximately $282,800).

“I was never going to catch Paul,” Bickerton said. “He was hot and played lovely. But it is nice to hang on for second.”

Lawrie led by two strokes after two rounds, but quickly increased his lead to five by holing a lob wedge from 101 yards for an eagle on the par-4 fourth hole, then two-putting for birdie on the par-5 fifth. He also birdied Nos. 8 and 10 before bogeying three of his final six holes to leave him with a five-shot edge heading into the final round. He maintained a comfortable lead throughout the afternoon.

The second round was completed Saturday because of three weather suspensions Friday, when play was delayed three times for a total of 5 hours, 45 minutes before being halted with only two players having finished their rounds.

The third round began later Saturday, but Lawrie and 17 others at the top of the leaderboard didn’t start their rounds until Sunday.

“The 65 in the second round was the key,” Lawrie said. “When you are coming on and off the course because of the weather, it is difficult to keep your focus and concentration, but I did that very well. My ballstriking was fantastic that day.”

Heavy rain also plagued the event last year, with only 36 holes completed in three days. Paul McGinley eventually won on the fifth hole of a three-man playoff that included Lawrie.

“It was nice to come back and win this time,” said Lawrie. “I played well last year, but didn’t win as I didn’t putt well.”

Lawrie, who won the nonofficial Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Professional Match Play title Aug. 3, will try for a third consecutive victory – and his second major championship – at this week’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

“I’m looking forward to going there with my game in good shape,” said Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion.

– From staff and wire reports

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