Lawrie makes 500th European Tour start at Volvo World Match Play

Paul Lawrie
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Paul Lawrie thought he might be winding down his career, but says that playing with his sons has heightened his interest in staying competitive.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | 2:14 p.m.

CASARES, Spain -- Former British Open champion Paul Lawrie aims to mark his 500th European Tour event by showing "there is a wee bit left in the tank yet."

The 43-year-old from Scotland becomes only the 22nd player, but the fourth Scot, to reach the landmark, and the fact that he does so at the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain says a lot.

Far from winding down or finding it hard to compete on the circuit any more, Lawrie's career has been flying again over the past two seasons and could culminate in a return to Ryder Cup action after a gap of 13 years this September.

"If I get in the Ryder Cup it would be the biggest achievement of my career, so that's the motivation," he said. "I really want to play on that team. It would be huge for me."

Already fifth in the points standings, Lawrie has the chance to move up to second this week -- and it is a good chance with Martin Kaymer the only world top-10 player in the 24-strong line-up.

Lawrie made his European Tour debut 20 years ago in the 1992 Johnnie Walker Asian Classic.

He won the first of seven titles four years later in the Catalan Open. And in 1999 at Carnoustie, he came from a major record 10 strokes back on the final day to beat Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard in a playoff.

Ian Woosnam is the only other major champion to reach 500 tournaments, but the list contains some big names -- eight-time European No. 1 Colin Montgomerie and Miguel Angel Jimenez are both still going strong and closing in on 600, while Sam Torrance remains the record-holder with an amazing 706.

"I turned pro at 17 with a 5-handicap in 1986 and then got to play with these boys each week -- anything that happened after that was a bonus," Lawrie said. "I think that's helped me longevity-wise. I still see it as 'I can't believe I'm out here winning and competing'.

"I still enjoy playing. I think I play more for fun now than I used to do with my sons coming up and being good golfers," he explained. "Playing with them is a help. About three or four years ago I thought I might just scale this down a bit and play a little bit less.

"Then the boys got pretty keen into golf and I started playing a bit more at home and I've kicked on a bit again," he added. "I can see me getting to 600 appearances now, but to get to 700, where Sam is at, is a huge number. Playing for 40 years is just an incredible record."

Lawrie went nine years without a title until last year's Andalucian Open, then was second in the Dubai World Championship in December and two months later won the Qatar Masters -- a performance that earned him his spot this week.

The event starts with two days of group action. Lawrie is drawn with Sweden’s Peter Hanson, second on the Ryder Cup table, and Colombian Camilo Villegas.

Current British Open champion Darren Clarke, who like Lawrie chose not to fly to Florida for last week's Players Championship, is alongside England's Justin Rose and Robert Rock. Clarke has yet to make a cut this season, so will be hoping a switch to match play can help spark him into life again.

The format is different this time. The line-up is split into eight groups of three, with the top two in each going through to the last 16 at the weekend.

Rose against Rock is one of two all-English clashes in the group stage. Defending champion Ian Poulter will play 21-year-old Tom Lewis on Friday. Lewis, who led the British Open as an amateur last July, qualified by winning the Portugal Masters in only his third start as a professional.