It is 23 years since he won the Open Championship, but at times Paul Lawrie finds it hard to believe.
“It is still, to this day, quite spooky and quite scary that my name is on a trophy along with some people I’ve looked up to my whole life,” Lawrie told the PA news agency ahead of hitting the opening shot in the 150th Open at St Andrews.
“If you’re British it’s the biggest tournament in the world. If you’re American I understand they probably want to win the US Open and the Masters before the Open, but for British players it is the tournament you want to win.
“I never get tired of speaking about it – when you see it even now and you see the Claret Jug, it’s incredible that I’ve got one of those in my lounge. It’s very cool and something I’ll never get tired of thinking about or talking about.”
Lawrie famously overturned a 10-shot deficit in the final round at Carnoustie in 1999 before beating Jean van de Velde and Justin Leonard in a four-hole play-off, Van de Velde having triple-bogeyed the 72nd hole in tragi-comic circumstances.
That means the former Ryder Cup player is exempt for the Open until the age of 60, but the 53-year-old is not sure how many more times he will compete in the game’s oldest major.
“My game is in good shape in regards to the over 50s circuit, but I’m not so sure it’s full tour stage worthy any more,” he added.
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“I’ve only played twice this year and I lost in a play-off in Jersey and won in Trevose but I’m not stupid enough to think the Open’s going to be the same thing.
“It’s a whole different field but I said I wouldn’t play in any more Opens if I never felt that I could compete and I feel my game is good enough to compete and we’ll see what happens.
“I’ve got until I’m 60 but things might change and I may well not play any more. I don’t think it’s my last one, I think I’ll play a few more before I stop, but that will be determined by how I’m playing.
“I’m certainly not going to play if I’m too busy to practice and my game is in a terrible state; there’s no way I’m going to take a spot off someone if I don’t feel that I can compete.”
The ideal venue for Lawrie to bow out would clearly be Carnoustie, which last hosted the Open in 2018 and could next do so in 2026 at the earliest.
Lawrie will be exempt until 2029 so what are the chances of him persuading the R&A to take the Open back there in time for an emotional farewell?
“If only I had that influence over the R&A that would be quite cool,” Lawrie said with a laugh. “I don’t think they’ll listen to me.
“I can’t see it being (at Carnoustie) in the next six or seven years but you never know. The Open is a very special event for any player to play in so I feel privileged to have played in so many and when the day comes that you don’t get to play any more there’s not much you can do about it.”
::: Paul Lawrie is supporting The 150th Open Championship Claret Jug Tour, in partnership with HSBC UK. The tour has visited schools, golf clubs, city centres and HSBC branches across the UK and Ireland, finishing at St Andrews for The 150th Open. For more information visit TheOpen.com and follow @TheOpen and @HSBC_UK. Fans can now enter the ticket ballot for The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool with results announced by the end of September. To enter the ballot fans must be a member of the free-to-join The One Club membership programme.