Lawrie shot an opening-round three-under-par 68 at the BMW PGA Championship yesterday to rekindle the former Spanish Open champion’s hopes of rejoining the Tour full-time next season after losing his card by placing 174th on the Race To Dubai in 2014.
After starting this year on a series of sponsors’ invitations, some of them thanks to the influence of Rory McIlroy and Paul McGinley, the 41-year-old yesterday found some cause for celebration.
This is his 13th consecutive appearance in the European Tour’s blue riband event and Lawrie was experessing his gratitude to its outgoing CEO.
“This is the pinnacle, as good as it gets for us,” Lawrie said. “I’ve been here before, finished fourth a couple of years ago so I know what it’s like, it’s a golf course I love and I’m very lucky to be here.
“Thanks Mr O’Grady for inviting me. I’m delighted to be here and playing well.”
Lawrie will start today’s second round as the leading Irishman in the field, a shot better than Damien McGrane and two ahead of world number one Rory McIlroy.
Yet he had almost given up hope of playing this week at all after staying in Spain following the Open de Espana to offer his time to the Special Olympics.
The good news came Monday lunchtime, “and it wasn’t looking good either,” he said.
“I was in PGA Catalunya doing a Special Olympics thing and Paul McGinley told me — I was coming through the first hole, it was a shotgun start – it wasn’t looking good and by the time I got to the green I’d got the phone call to say I was in.
“Rory and Paul have been tremendous, they really have, it’s good to know who your friends are.
“This is the biggest one, 5 million, if you play well in this one you’re on your way to getting your card back and that’s what I’m here for.”
Last season’s Irish PGA Order of Merit winner Niall Kearney did his fellow PGA pros proud, the Royal Dublin golfer opening with a level-par round of 72 but there will be more work to do for his Touring compatriots if they are to make it to the weekend.
Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke all carded two-over 74s with Michael Hoey a shot further back.
“I just played poorly again,” Lowry said. “I don’t know what I am doing the last few months because I am trying my hardest, it’s just not happening.
“I have to stick my head down and keep plugging away. I need something in the 60s to get back into the tournament.”