Lawrie shock as play goes on following caddie death
IRISH golfer Peter Lawrie last night described as "shocking, absolutely shocking" a decision to resume yesterday's final round of the Madeira Islands Open following the death of Scot Alastair Forsyth's caddie, Ian McGregor, of a suspected heart attack on the ninth hole.
Initially, play was suspended indefinitely as medical assistance was sought for the highly-respected 52-year-old Zimbabwean but a decision then was taken to resume the tournament and play it to a finish.
In a statement, the European Tour extended "our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Ian at this time" and explained "following consultation with players and caddies involved, however, play should continue and the tournament should finish.
"A minute's silence has taken place at the clubhouse and play resumed at 6.00pm local time," added the statement. "All administration will be taken care of by the European Tour and we will help in any way possible."
Yet Dubliner Lawrie, 40, withdrew from the event "as a mark of respect to Mac. I've been out here 12 years and I've known him all that time. He was a lovely man. In my opinion it was shocking, absolutely shocking, they played on," added Lawrie, who was on the eighth tee with two holes to play when the tragedy occurred.
"I've never withdrawn from a tournament before. I wasn't going well but that had nothing to do with it. A man died. I believe it's totally wrong what they did ... I don't see how I could have played that ninth hole?"
A member of the Tour's controlling Tournament Players Committee, Lawrie tried to persuade officials not to allow play to resume, suggesting it either should be abandoned and the €600,000 purse given to McGregor's family or at least be suspended for completion at a later date. McGregor, a divorcee, is survived by his daughter.
Alexandre Kaleka of France and Belgian Thomas Pieters also withdrew from the event out of respect to McGregor, while other Tour players went onto social media to express their admiration for McGregor and dismay at the decision to conclude the weather-ravaged event, which was reduced to 36-holes.
Sweden's Joel Sjoholm, who previously worked with MacGregor, tweeted: "Can't believe they are sending out players to finish the 2nd and final round when someone just died on the course!!!." France's Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, who, like Sjoholm, also missed the cut, wrote: "Can't believe there are still playing in Madeira.there is no respect anymore. How you can even walk on the 9th fairway. RIP Mac."
Yet Lawrie found himself in the minority at Santo da Serra yesterday. "Others saw it as a mark of respect to Mac to finish the tournament, though, personally, I don't see it that way," he explained.
In fairness, the Irishman added that McGregor's fellow caddies reasoned "Mac would have liked us to finish the tournament."
McGregor collapsed and died on the ninth fairway, the final hole of Forsyth's round and the Scot, clearly convinced it was in his caddie's honour, later completed the hole in par for a 75 and a 45th place finish on four-over.
The ill-fated 1,500th European Tour event was reduced to 36 holes after incessant fog delays on the undulating mountain-top course allowed the field complete just one round by Saturday.
For the record, England's Daniel Brooks beat Scott Henry of Scotland on the first tie hole after both finished on nine-under.
Elsewhere, Rory McIlroy surged strongly to another "back door top-10 finish" this year after a superb closing 66 in The Players lifted him to nine-under in the US Tour's annual showpiece.
The Holywood native, who needed to birdie 18 on Friday to make the cut, played splendidly on the back nine in all four rounds. Yet he excelled himself down that stretch at the weekend, landing six back-nine birdies yesterday as, for the second day in succession, he competed the homeward journey in five-under.
However, McIlroy's mystifying performance on the outward half wrecked his title hopes. He made 10 bogeys and two double-bogeys, against six birdies, over fours day as he completed the front nine in an aggregate eight-over.
Conversely, Graeme McDowell wrapped up a final round 72 yesterday with a five at the last after hitting his final tee shot into the lake ... bringing the Portrush man's tally over four days to eight bogeys plus one double-bogey on the final six holes. He finished just outside the top-60 on one-over.
Justin Rose was handed a two-shot bonus before the final round when US Tour officials, after consulting with golf's rule-makers, rescinded a two-strokes penalty awarded against him for a 'moving ball' infringement on 18 on Saturday.