Lawrie aims to improve Ryder Cup standing at Spanish Open this week

Paul Lawrie
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After a long dry spell, 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie has two wins and a runner-up finish over the last year or so.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, May 02, 2012 | 1:07 p.m.

SEVILLE, Spain -- Paul Lawrie has a golden opportunity this week to move a big step closer to his first Ryder Cup berth in 13 years. But the 43-year-old Scot didn’t have the greatest of starts to his week as he set off for the Spanish Open.

"Today has been great fun," Lawrie said on his website about is travails on Monday. "Four-thirty alarm to catch the 6.40am flight to Heathrow, then onto Madrid. I missed the connection to Seville by 15 minutes, next flight seven hours later. Aarrgghhh - the joys of travel eh?"

SPANISH OPEN

This tournament marks the 100th anniversary of the first Spanish Open as well as the 40th anniversary of the official launch of the European Tour.

It could be a trip well worth making, however.

With Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose all taking the week off, the former British Open champion can leap from fifth to second on the European Ryder Cup points table, leaving only Rory McIlroy ahead of him.

In addition, Lawrie will play the first two rounds alongside European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal -- a teammate on his only previous appearance against the Americans in 1999.

Lawrie showed what he was made of in Boston by agreeing to hit the first shot of the match and tying for top points-scorer with partner Colin Montgomerie.

Lawrie went nine years without a victory before capturing the Andalucia Open in Malaga last year and has since added a win at the Qatar Masters as well as a runner-up finish at the Dubai World Championship.

With nobody in the world's top 35 is taking part this week, the 43rd-ranked Lawrie is not the only one eyeing a chance to make a significant move.

Simon Dyson, Alvaro Quiros, Anders Hansen and Francesco Molinari are the other top-50 players in the field, while Michael Hoey and Robert Rock have already won this season. Wins by any of those players could put them back into the thick of the Ryder Cup race.

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the first Spanish Open -- Frenchman Arnaud Massy won it -- and it was also the tournament that launched the European Tour 40 years ago next week.

Antonio Garrido was the winner then and his son Ignacio is part of a home contingent that also includes Miguel Angel Jimenez, but not Sergio Garcia.

Jimenez remembers clearly that it was during the event last year that Seve Ballesteros, Spain's greatest-ever golfer, lost his battle with a brain tumor.

"The Spanish Open is very special to all of us Spanish players and I would love to have a victory in the tournament in my career," Jimenez said. "It's a big week because of everything that is going on and of course.

"We will all have our thoughts about Seve and how we miss him, but we will have to also try to keep our minds on the tournament and try to do our best to win."

Olazabal designed the course and Quiros was the winner on it two years ago, beating England's James Morrison in a playoff.