Lawrie lays early Ryder Cup marker
PAUL LAWRIE, for so long the forgotten Major Champion of golf, thrust himself back into the world's elite top-50 for the first time since 2003 with a sensational final round 65 to win the Qatar Masters.
Lawrie (43) had a distinct sense of déjà vu during the trophy presentation at Doha Golf Club yesterday.
He last won this prestigious title in 1999, going on that year to win the British Open at Carnoustie, an occasion remembered more for Jean Van de Velde's 72nd hole calamities than Lawrie's splendid final round.
"Wouldn't that be something," said the quietly-spoken Scot at the suggestion that he might go on to win July's Open at Lytham.
Perhaps the Aberdeen native will make his return to the Ryder Cup arena at Medinah next September for the first time since making his sole appearance on the European team at Brookline in '99.
Lawrie certainly has struck the ball well enough and putted with sufficient confidence and authority to compete in any company. "Tee to green, I'm a far better player now than I ever was in 1999," he said.
Yesterday's win was Lawrie's seventh on Tour, and second in 10 months, but as he racks up a string of four successive top-10 finishes for the first time in his career, it's fair to say he's rarely, if ever, played better.
Lawrie breezed home four strokes ahead of hot Aussie prospect Jason Day (65) and Sweden's Peter Hanson (67), with John Daly (67) two strokes further back in fourth, the American's first top-five anywhere since his runner-up finish at the 2009 Italian Open.
Sergio Garcia (68) was the only player who came remotely close to troubling Lawrie as this wind-blown 54-hole tournament came to an idyllic conclusion yesterday in balmy sunshine.
The Spaniard actually drew level with the Scot as he played his first 11 holes in six-under, but Lawrie responded instantly, chipping-in for eagle from just short of the ninth green.
The winner chipped in again at 17 for his fourth birdie on a sublime back nine, which suggested he could shine if he makes it to Augusta and the Masters for the first time since 2004.
Michael Hoey was Ireland's best finisher in a tie for 12th on six-under after the Co Antrim native's putter began to behave itself during a fourth-round 68 which set him up for a €27,542 payday.
Graeme McDowell (70) and Peter Lawrie (71) both earned €4,835 in a share of 59th place on one-under. Damien McGrane once again found birdie putts very hard to sink as a final-round 73 left him tied 73rd on two-over par with just €2,835 to show for his week's work.
World No 2 Rory McIlroy will join Hoey, Lawrie, McGrane and two men who missed the cut in Doha, Shane Lowry and Gareth Maybin, in a six-strong Irish assault on this week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Elsewhere, Niall Turner finished in a five-way tie for 20th place in the Asian Tour's Myanmar Open, following a final-round 69 at Royal Mingalardon Golf And Country Club in Yangon.
On 10-under par the Corkman was five outside the three-man play-off, which was won by Aussie Kieran Pratt.
Christel Boeljon of the Netherlands came from three behind overnight leader So Yeon Ryu to claim a one-stroke victory at the Gold Coast RACV Australian Ladies Masters with a 72nd hole birdie at Royal Pines.
Rebecca Codd matched the winner's final-round 68 to finish joint 52nd on three-under.