A breeze for Lawrie

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The Independent Online
PAUL LAWRIE could win his first European golf tour title without hitting a ball today. The Catalan Open was reduced to 36 holes after strong winds, which prevented any play on Friday, caused a further three-hour delay yesterday.

When the second round got under way, 27-year-old Lawrie added a 70 to his opening 65 to finish nine under par. But then the Aberdonian began the wait to learn if this was good enough for the pounds 50,000 first prize.

Swindon's 20-year-old David Howell was among the late starters resigned to returning to the course in the morning, but an eagle three at the 525- yard first instantly put the tour rookie at Lawrie's heels. The Spaniard Domingo Hospital could have tied with the Scot, but three-putted the last from 30 feet and finished on 137, seven under.

Lawrie appeared to be coasting when he stood 11 under with two to play, but he then cut a three-iron into the lake at the 213-yard eighth - his 17th - and ran up a double bogey five. At the 435-yard last he drove into sand, but pitched to five feet and made it for a par four which enabled him to pip playing partner Fernando Roca. "It was looking very messy at the end," admitted Lawrie, whose previous best finish was fourth in Majorca two years ago. "I was streaking ahead, but then I looked like I was throwing it away. I was brain dead at the eighth. I don't think it was the wrong shot, but it could yet prove to be. It was really the only mistake I made. It was so windy at the start that I would have accepted a 70."

At the long 14th, where he took a bogey six, Lawrie called for tournament director, David Garland, to complain that conditions were unplayable. He had putted to within six inches of the hole, but the wind blew his ball 18 inches further away.

Earlier in the day it had been gusting at up to 70mph, but at the very moment he was speaking to Garland it eased off. This was a lucky break for Howell, and the question remaining overnight was whether the former Walker Cup amateur - fourth and eighth already in his short professional career - could take advantage of easier conditions and go on to beat Lawrie.