When you have missed the cut in the Open Championship, a chance to get home, re-grip a few clubs, have a bite to eat and walk the dog at least makes for a productive end to a disappointing day.
Except Friday ended well for Paul Lawrie when he found out he had not missed the cut at all. A score of eight over par for the first 36 holes at Muirfield might well have sent the 1999 champion home for good in another year.
But not this year. Though his West Highland terrier, Bobo, was no doubt delighted to see him briefly, Lawrie’s second round of 69, following a disastrous opening 81, was good enough to keep him in the championship – not that it looked it on Friday lunchtime.
“Well, I went home, obviously,” he said. “I didn’t think seven over had any chance, let alone eight over. When I came off the course six over was 80th or something. How is eight over going to get in? It shows how tough the course is. Thankfully, it’s just up the road. I don’t think I’ve ever had to do that before.”
Lawrie lives in Aberdeen so it was a good five hours-plus that he spent on the road, getting home just after five and then after monitoring the ever-rising cut-line, and receiving numerous texts including from elder son Craig, he and wife Marian climbed back in the car and got back to Muirfield soon after 11pm.
Richie Ramsay was also caught out, but then he only lives in Edinburgh. Although it might have been Lawrie’s first experience of premature cut dejection, it has happened to many over the years. His playing partner yesterday, Geoff Ogilvy, had an adventure three years ago while playing in Florida.
The Australian bought a first-class ticket back to Phoenix but just before take-off found out that he would probably make the cut after all. He could get off the plane but it was too late to remove his clubs from the hold. He had to fly across the country and then return on a private plane. Despite little sleep overnight, the trip was worth it as he scored a 65 the next day.
Robert Karlsson actually recorded a course-record 62 at Wentworth in 2010 after getting within 500 metres of his home in Monaco the previous evening before he got a call and decided to turn his taxi around. The only way back was via a stopover in Paris, a crack-of-dawn flight into Heathrow and a bacon sandwich from the stall on the range on the way to the first tee.
Lawrie could not produce anything quite so dramatic, a one-under-par 70 leaving the Scot at seven over par. At the time he finished, he was ten strokes off the lead, which was how he started the final round in 1999 at Carnoustie. That year he got some help from the elements and he would need the same today, but at least he has another round to saviour the atmosphere of his favourite tournament.
“The first day I just played terrible, horrible,” he said. “It’s the worst I’ve played in a long time and around a course as good as this and set up as tough as this, you are not going to score anything else. But Friday I played magnificent, didn’t get too technical, had a nice rhythm. Today was the same, played beautiful although struggled with the putter. Should have been quite a few less today.”
Another bonus of making the cut is the chance to receive a sizeable cheque, enough to cover the extra petrol expenses and the cost of a room at Greywalls, the hotel next to the Muirfield clubhouse, which came with a seven-night minimum stay. At least he was able to check back in without any fuss.
Ernie Els is also staying at Greywalls, as he did when he won here in 2002. The defending champion, who came from six strokes behind last year at Lytham, will need another late charge today. He had a 70 yesterday to be five over. “If I’m within six or seven, you never know,” said the South African. “It happened last year. I’m not saying it’s going to happen every day but anything can happen in the Open.
“It’s tough when you’ve won and had a lot of things go your way and then the next year you don’t get the bounces. That’s links golf.”