Sunday 17 December 2017

Lawrie hits the ground running in Ballantine's

Peter Lawrie. Photo: Getty Images
Peter Lawrie. Photo: Getty Images

William S Callahan

PHYSICAL fitness used never be seen as a prerequisite for good golf, but it is essential for success these days for the globe-trotting professionals who perform week-in, week-out on the European Tour.

Especially on weeks like this, when a round-the-world dash from Spain's Mediterranean coast to South Korea, is followed by a 72-hole trek up and down the inclines of Blackstone Golf Club.

Peter Lawrie, one of many who packed their bags after the final round of the Open de Espana and headed for the Ballantine's Championship, didn't arrive in Incheon until late on Tuesday.


Since he wasn't slated to play in Wednesday's pre-tournament pro-am, Lawrie didn't have the opportunity to play a practice round at Blackstone, a course he's visiting for the first time.

Which made his polished first round 68 all the more satisfying for Lawrie, while it also spoke chapters for the advice proffered by his caddie Gerry Byrne, a fellow Dubliner.

"Very happy," was Lawrie's own verdict on a day's work, which left the 39-year-old just one shy off the clubhouse lead as darkness brought this weather-delayed opening day to a close with half the field still on the golf course.

Among those stragglers was hot pre-tournament favourite Louis Oosthuizen, who was four-under through 16 holes.

The organisers furnished the 2010 Open Champion with a private jet to bring him from the US. The South African certainly got off to a flying start, picking up six birdies in his opening eight holes before coming back to earth with bogeys on the 10th and 12th.

Of course, Oosthuizen was meant to be joined on that flight by Dustin and Zach Johnson, but the two American Ryder Cup stars, who are not related, were too unnerved by recent North Korean warmongering to travel.

Like his regular fellow-travellers on the European Tour, Lawrie flew commercial from Spain to Korea, but clearly recovered quickly from his jet lag as he gave a sprightly account of himself.

"It's a difficult course, very hilly," he conceded. "You have to be fit. It's going to be a long slog for the four days here.

"The course is very good. You've got to position yourself off the tee and your iron play has to be very good with undulating greens," added Lawrie, who benefited from a two-hour mid-round 'rest' after fog made play impossible.

"We'd all the seasons today," he said. "It was difficult early on, but when we got that break, it was time to relax. Then I came out and played quite nicely when we resumed."

One-over through seven holes of his outward half, Lawrie picked up a couple of birdies on 17 and 18 before playing the front nine in a bogey-free three-under.

This included a phenomenal par save at four after he'd hit his shot from the elevated tee into the water.

Summarising his recent efforts, which included a share of 16th place in Spain, Lawrie went on: "I've been working hard on the driver and trying to keep my ball in play, so it was pleasing to hit a lot of good tee shots today. I'd a lot of good iron shots too, so we're getting there."

Three of the five players who shot 67 for a share of the clubhouse lead played in Spain: JB Gonnet, Matthew Baldwin and Johan Edfors, though the latter missed the cut. The other two leaders were Kieran Pratt and Gi-whan Kim.

Damien McGrane posted a one-under par 71, while Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley had a little work to do today to make the cut on his comeback from a recent back strain following an opening 73. Gareth Maybin was two-over through 10 holes when darkness fell.

The Ballantine's Championship,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 6.0am

Irish Independent

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