Notebook: Lawrie returns to Ryder Cup action

Paul Lawrie of Europe addresses the media duirng his press conference during the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club.

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MEDINAH, Ill. – Some things haven’t changed. The intensity, the camaraderie, the boisterous crowds.

But since his previous appearance in a Ryder Cup, the complexion of the now global game of golf has changed. For instance, in 1999 when Scotsman Paul Lawrie rode onto the European team as your Open Championship winner, only one member of his team, Jesper Parnevik, lived a good bit of the time in the U.S.

This time around, the rejuvenated Lawrie is among teammates who seem as much American as they do European. Luke Donald, for goodness sakes, called Chicago home. Justin Rose, Peter Hanson, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter are neighbors in Lake Nona in Orlando, while Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood are settling into the North Palm Beach area. Oh, and Martin Kaymer has been known to spend plenty of time in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Fair enough,” Lawrie said, pointing to the fact that so much of the world’s best golf is built around the PGA Tour and three World Golf Championships in the U.S. “I think it’s easier to stay in America if you’re a member of both tours.”

Though Lawrie’s first go-round with the Ryder Cup ended with a bad memory, the improbable U.S. rally on Sunday, he shared a funny story that got the competition off to a memorable start. Paired with Colin Montgomerie in foursomes, Lawrie had been assigned the duty of hitting the first tee shot, and he was reasonably nervous. Last thing he needed was a chatty referee, but there was the official telling Montgomeire “that I’m a Scotch,” Lawrie recalled, “and Monty said, ‘No, scotch is a drink. It’s a drink. It’s a drink.’ “

The referee then proceeded to show Montgomerie and Lawrie some family snapshots.

“I’m supposed to hit in two minutes the opening tee shot of the Ryder Cup, and this guy is showing me pictures of his grandkids,” Lawrie said, laughing. “You know, it was strange, but it kind of made it a little bit of a lighthearted moment.”

• • •

READY TO COME OUT OF THE BULLPEN: Dustin Johnson said his caddie, Bobby Brown, had an MRI yesterday and has been told the pain in his back is a herniated disk.

Having stopped in the middle of the second round at last week’s Tour Championship (Johnson’s longtime friend Cameron Hooper went the rest of the way), Brown is questionable this week. “I know he really wants to caddie, and I want him to caddie, too,” Johnson said, “but it’s not worth it to caddie if he’s hurt.”

Johnson indicated that Jeff Webber would pick up the bag, should Brown not be ready.

Webber, who caddies regularly for U.S. captain Davis Love III, is here as a member of the staff.

• • •

OK, NOW LET’S HAVE A MATCH: Given that they’re widely expected to pair up in at least the four-ball sessions, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley were not surprisingly in the second wave of Americans for Tuesday’s practice. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, 3-1 as a Presidents Cup team last fall (1-1 in four-ball), rounded out that group.

Yes, there was a little intra-team match, but Bradley wasn’t about to provide all the details. Except, that is, to poke a little fun at Watson and Simpson “because I birdied the first, and they started the match at the second.”

• • •

FUN TIMES: Silly season at the Ryder Cup? Now that’s a little different, because usually there is such an air of national security during this event that it becomes insufferable. Honestly, it’s golf, but you’d think all these assistant captains were FBI agents guarding the president, what with all the ear pieces connected to hidden microphones and walkie-talkies.

But to break up the stuffiness, a captains/celebrity challenge was held at one of the other golf courses at the Medinah facility. Eight former U.S. captains split up into four teams and took on as teammates a pair of celebrities. When it was over, Hal Sutton and Lanny Wadkins joined with Michael Phelps and George Lopez to shoot 9 under and win by three. Tom Lehman and Dave Stockton, who were paired with Justin Timberlake and Bill Murray, tied for second with Corey Pavin and Lee Trevino, who were with Ernie Banks and Stan Mikita. Finishing last were Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw, paired with Scottie Pippen and Richard Dent.

As a true indicator of how poorly things have gone for the Americans in this biennial event, only three of those American captains – Trevino, Stockton and Crenshaw – left his duties with a win.

• • •

FOR OPENERS, A BLAST: Only because he has been asked the same question countless times – “Do you remember your first shot in the Ryder Cup, way back in 1997?” – Jim Furyk has it nailed down to every detail.

Paired with Tom Lehman in a first-session four-balls against Jesper Parnevik and Per-Ulrik Johansson, Furyk was easily 15 to 20 yards shorter than each of those players. But at Valderrama’s tight first hole, with everyone hitting 3-wood, “I hit it 20 yards past anyone off the tee,” Furyk said.

“I just remember being really jacked up and had a lot adrenaline at the time. I wish I could tap into more of that when I needed it.”

For the record, Furyk and Lehman lost that match, 1 up.

• • •

A LITTLE BREAKDOWN IN COMMUNICATION: Peter Hanson is Swedish but lives most of the time at Lake Nona in Orlando. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be a little turbulence with language.

Asked what European captain Jose Maria Olazabal, a Spaniard, offered to team members as a gift Monday night, Hanson clearly didn’t hear it correctly. “It’s going to be a touch match,” he started to say, then added, “I think we are just trying to get everybody ready for Friday.”

So the question was repeated, about what players got as a gift, only this time Hanson laughed.

“No, no gifts,” he said. “No, this is tough times. No gifts.”

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