ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Paul Lawrie is heading back to the future.
The Scotsman is hoping to get back into the same groove that saw him win the 1999 Open Championship thanks to the R&A and USGA. The new rule applying to grooves has him as excited about a golf season as he’s been in years.
Lawrie might play in the 21st century, but he is strictly old school. The Scotsman grew up playing traditional-style links golf. The target-style golf that has become the norm on professional tours around the world is completely alien to him.
The 41-year-old has had to adapt his game to the demands of modern professional golf, but it’s no coincidence that of his five European Tour wins, his biggest two – the Open Championship and Dunhill Links Championship – have come on the world’s greatest links courses.
Lawrie’s Open win came at Carnoustie, while he won the Dunhill over the trio of St. Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. He had an advantage both weeks: Lawrie learned to play golf on the windswept links of Northeast Scotland, on such links gems as Royal Aberdeen, Murcar and Cruden Bay.
The Scotsman didn’t fly too many balls at pins when he was growing up. Anyone who knows anything about links golf knows about the bump and run, and landing the ball short of the green and letting it release to the flag. That’s why Lawrie’s happy with the new groove rule.
“I think it’s going to help me,” Lawrie said. “I like to roll the ball on the green. I don’t like to spin it all.”
Older players have expressed their backing for the rule change, among them Tom Watson and Greg Norman. It’s no coincidence both featured in the last two Open Championships, where target golf is almost non-existent except in a deluge.
“I read a quote that Greg Norman said you’re going to get a lot of older players coming back again,” Lawrie said. “I certainly feel like one of those.
“I was brought up on links. I wasn’t brought up to spin the ball. I was brought up that every pitch lands within two yards of the green and you roll the ball up to the hole. I wasn’t brought up to spin a lob wedge back.
“I think you’ll see that coming in more and more, especially with the golf courses having a bit more rough.”
The former European Ryder Cup player did sound a note of caution, though. He fears that science could outdo the rules makers.
“These manufacturers are going to find a way to get the players to spin it like they have last year, which is unfortunate,” he said.
Lawrie is hoping the scientists fail, and is backing the lawmakers.
“I think the rule change is a fantastic change. I think you will see a few more feel players, a few more old-fashioned players kind of winning tournaments again. I hope I’m one of those. I don’t mind being called old-fashioned.”