Sport Golf

Friday 23 March 2018

Butterflies leave Lawrie flying high

Karl MacGinty in Rabat

BUTTERFLIES fluttered at opposite ends of the field as Peter Lawrie and Paul McGinley faced up to vastly different tests in the opening round of The Hassan II Golf Trophy.

Lawrie couldn't remember the last time he felt so nervous before a golf tournament, while fellow Dubliner McGinley, understandably, was apprehensive about what lay ahead as he walked onto a tee box on Tour for the first time in nearly five months.

Usually the most phlegmatic of chaps, Lawrie was desperately keen to do well this week after inviting father-in-law Bernard Hudson to partner him in a pro-am event at Royal Dar El Salaam in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

It was his birthday gift to Hudson, who turned 60 on Tuesday, and Lawrie said: "He's not going to have many chances to play out here and when you are trying to do something for somebody, you really want it to go right -- to be perfect. I don't think I've been as nervous starting off a round of golf in a long time."

Breaking his favourite driver on the 15th hole of his final practice round on Wednesday evening might have seemed like a bad omen. But yesterday could hardly have gone better for Lawrie as he skipped to within one stroke of Nick Dougherty's first-round lead with a flawless 66, earning a share of second place on six-under.

As a member of Castleknock, Hudson is a good golf buddy to Lawrie, the Dublin club's Touring Pro. "I managed to get Peter around today," said the 20-handicap, who has to play-off 18 this week but still contributed one birdie to the cause yesterday.

The glue on the trusty Callaway driver Lawrie's used for the past 30 months gave way on Wednesday and the head twisted round. As the technical reps for the various golf club manufacturers had already decamped, he went into battle with a Taylor Made R90.

"I'm lucky I brought it," he said. "I used it twice today but I'm likely to need driver more tomorrow on the Red Course, which is quite long. Sure, if it doesn't go straight, I always have my three-wood."

That three-wood was seen to good effect as Lawrie eagled the 520-yard second hole on the Blue Course yesterday, where he then hit a rasping three-iron to six feet and holed the putt.

Sadly, McGinley's first competitive round of golf since last November, when he had his sixth operation on his left knee, did not turn out as well as the 43-year-old might have hoped.

But he played remarkably well from tee-to-green and, apart from a little swelling afterwards, the joint gave him no trouble. Yet McGinley would discover that months of putting on the carpet at home had left him ill-prepared for the vagaries of playing on grass.

"It was my first round back and that's exactly what it felt like," he said after signing for a three-over par 76 which left him in a tie for 93rd and needing to go very low on the less difficult Blue Course today to beat the cut.


"I actually felt I hit the ball okay but scored dreadfully and putted very poorly. I was never going to be on the cutting edge but I'd expected to putt better than I did and that's the difference between shooting a decent score and not."

McGinley actually opened with birdie, hitting the first of many point-perfect drives down the fairway before hitting a pitching wedge to three feet and holing the putt.

Yet a three-putt bogey from 50 feet at the third was a harbinger. He missed from inside three feet for par at eight; squirt his tee shot into water at nine for double-bogey. After striking the flagstick with his 20-yard chip into 12, setting-up a tap-in birdie four, he let another short-range par putt get away at 14.

So it was off to the practice green for a remedial session which McGinley hopes will help him win his ticket to the weekend today.

The Hassan II Golf Trophy,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 12.30

Irish Independent

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