Lawrie keeps the faith in Killarney

Lawrie keeps the faith in Killarney

Former Open champion Paul Lawrie hopes to stay in contention for the 3 Irish Open at Killarney today but knows his task is not as tough as the one he and his wife have set themselves next week.

Lawrie, two behind England’s David Howell after his five under par opening round of 66, are going to take on the 96-mile West Highland Way to raise funds for his Foundation.

The Lawries, who set off next Tuesday with four friends, launched the charity in 2001 – two years after his memorable victory at Carnoustie – and have now developed a programme for under-18s that encourages them to develop their sporting potential.

Without a win on the European Tour for eight years, the 41-year-old has certainly not given up hope.

“You’re here to win. You don’t come to tournaments unless that’s the idea,” he said.

“That was my best putting round of the year by far. I’ve been lining the ball up with my kids – they kind of talked me into it.

“They’ve been doing it for ages. They have these wee devices that you put the marker pen on and have been saying ’Dad, why are you missing all these putts? Just line them up – it’s easy’.”

Howell, who since his Ryder Cup days has slumped to a current 479th in the world, also turned in a great display on the greens as he re-ignited his flagging career.

The Swindon golfer led by one overnight from Ireland’s Damien McGrane and Australian left-hander Richard Green.

“I’ve never wanted to give up, but it’s crossed my mind that if I carry on playing as I did last year I wouldn’t have a career to be worried about,” said Howell.

“I’ve been working hard and persevering. I’ve been back with my old coach Clive Tucker for six months now and I’ve certainly been hitting the ball a lot better the last two or three.

“I chipped in and holed three long ones – more than my fair share, which in fairness you normally do when you shoot 64.”

His last was in Portugal two years ago and brought him a play-off, but last season saw him slump again to only 156th in Europe and he has not had a top 10 finish since September.

“My patience ran out a good while ago. I had a very bad injury at the start of 2007, split up with my then girlfriend (she is now his wife) and I wasn’t a happy person.

“Added to playing rubbish it was a pretty lonely, miserable time, so I finally got round to sorting my personal life out and this year I’m in a happy point in my life.

“Golf is very difficult when you’re a pro and you don’t know where the ball is going. It’s a very stressful thing to do – that’s why I’m losing my hair really.”

Darren Clarke had only two shots to make up, Rory McIlroy three and Padraig Harrington four, but US Open champion Graeme McDowell resumed six back and Justin Rose’s 74 left him 10 adrift and in severe danger of missing the cut.

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