Lawrie Hits Opening Tee Shot Of 150th Open

Scotland's Paul Lawrie had the honour of getting The Open underway and he did it in style

Paul Lawrie
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Paul Lawrie is fine with early starts – ‘I’m 53, so I'm wide awake at 4:30. By 5am I've had my pee’ –  so teeing off at 6.35 was never going to be a problem. Throw in hitting the opening tee shot of the 150th Open and everything gets a bit tighter.

The Scot has actually hit the opening shot in the Championship, here at the 2010 Open, but that was before it became a nod towards the great and good of the game. This time he would be getting the Open underway, in his home country and with his son on the bag.

If there was anywhere that you would want to be given this honour it would be at St Andrews, both for the occasion and the setting and, maybe more than that with everyone asking you about this one shot for the past few days, what lies ahead of you. A wide expanse of land where pretty much every club will do the job for you but still with that lingering doubt that something horrific could still take place – three groups later  Ian Poulter very nearly hooked it out of bounds.

A shot that Lawrie, now an honorary member of St Andrews, is all too familiar with.

“When we had the Champions challenge the first year, I hit first because I was defending champion and I hit a horrible poor hook and it was only a few yards from the fence. Tom Weiskopf was next and, as he was walking over, he whispered in my ear, thank. He hit it right next to my ball. The pair of us hit terrible shots down there. I would say that's the most nervous I've ever been, apart from the '99 opening tee shot,” Lawrie explained earlier in the week.

“I'm always nervous on the 1st tee. I'm never great on the 1st tee. No matter what tournament I'm playing in I'm always a wee bit nervous. But obviously it'll be a little bit more because it's The Open and it's the 150th. The stand on the right looks a bit closer than it did before.”

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The 1st tee on the Thursday morning of The Open has always been a great tradition and it’s one that’s got even better over the years. We’ve had the likes of Monty at Troon and Darren Clarke at Portrush and, aside from anything else, as long as the weather plays fair it’s the best time of the day to play. Lawrie was the first of his threeball on the putting green, he was playing with Min Woo Lee and Webb Simpson, and the first on the tee seven minutes before he was due to hit.

All corners of the golfing world had made it, the head of the R&A Martin Slumbers was in place and chatty, photographers were being hurried into position and the gentleman next to me was downloading the course on his phone to check whether he would hit driver or 3-wood. He went with the 3.

Lawrie went with an iron and, much as he did in the play-off at Carnoustie, he struck it beautifully, holding his finish, enjoying every moment – 220 yards straight down the middle. The pin was cut just six yards over the burn but all that could wait, now Lawrie could relax and puff out his cheeks. The first 100 yards was spent acknowledging the rightful applause of a home Open champ and cries of ‘Go on, Chippie!’

All this is more than one shot, it’s one of the small cogs that goes into making The Open the best of the best.

"I normally like watching the game ahead tee off. I've always gotten to the tee really early my whole career, but I couldn't do that this morning because there was nobody there. And I put a nice swing on it and off it popped down the fairway. No bother," Lawrie explained at the end of his opening 74 which included a closing eagle two.

"I was surprised how many people were there to be honest. I wasn't expecting that. I thought there would be a few, but the stand on the right was pretty full. Nice to see all the people. You always get great support here, don't ya. It's always cool."

Mark Townsend
Mark Townsend

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.