ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Paul Lawrie is the oldest guy on the British Open leaderboard, one of the lowest-ranked players left in the field, and his cold putter has turned him into a grouch this season.
He may, though, just be the biggest threat to Dustin Johnson heading into the final two rounds at St. Andrews.
Lawrie is defying his age (46), world ranking (No. 346) and howling winds to stay in contention at the home of golf, following up a 6-under 66 in the first round with a second-round 70 on Saturday. He is alone in third place on 8-under 136, two strokes off Johnson’s lead.
So how is Lawrie keeping pace with the likes of Johnson, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen at golf’s oldest major?
Maybe it’s his innate knowledge of links golf and his mastery of playing in the wind.
“It’s not rocket science,” Lawrie says about a style of golf that is a mystery to many. “You stick the ball a little bit further back in your stance and you take a little bit of speed off your swing to make it come out a little lower. … All these guys know that.”
Lawrie makes it sound so easy. And it is, for someone who grew up playing on links in northern Scotland and already has experience of lifting the claret jug.
In 1999, Lawrie rallied from 10 shots behind on the final day and won in a playoff at Carnoustie. Of course, that Open is largely remembered for Jean Van de Velde throwing away a three-shot lead with a triple-bogey on the 72nd hole, which put Lawrie into the playoff.
Lawrie hasn’t come close at the British Open since, finishing no higher than 26th place, but he has a real shot at becoming the oldest Open champion — breaking the record of Old Tom Morris by 98 days.
“Haven’t really thought that far ahead, to be honest,” Lawrie said. “If you start getting ahead of yourself, it’s when you start making mistakes and tripping up.”
Lawrie has blamed poor putting for making him grumpy in recent months, but a new putter helped him to a 17th-place finish at the Scottish Open last week, and has been hot at St. Andrews.
After a 10 1/2-hour break for high winds, Lawrie resumed his second round on No. 14 and made five successive pars thanks to some good mid-range putting.
“I could easily be sitting here 5 under and not 8 under,” Lawrie said.
The Scots in the crowd have another home hope at St. Andrews. Marc Warren is in a six-way tie for fourth after rounds of 68-69.
Lawrie and Warren have been paired for the third round.
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