Olazabal pleased with Lawrie's decision

Former Open champion Paul Lawrie's dream of a return to the Ryder Cup after 13 years is almost reality.

Golf News: Jose Maria Olazabal

According to captain Jose Maria Olazabal, the 43-year-old Scot, up to second in the standings behind Rory McIlroy, is "pretty much in" after finishing joint runner-up to Luke Donald and earning over £312,000 in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

And while others may have raised their eyebrows about Lawrie deciding not to enter next month's US Open - he thinks he is better served staying in Europe to pick up more cup points - Olazabal sees one big positive in that.

"It says a lot about what he thinks of the Ryder Cup, how important it is to him," the two-time Masters champion said midway through his bid at Walton Heath to qualify for the second major of the year.

The two were teammates back in 1999 - the fiercely-contested "Battle of Brookline" that ended so controversially when Olazabal missed a putt following an invasion of the 17th green after Justin Leonard holed from long range.

The Spaniard waited seven years for his next appearance in the match, but if Lawrie makes it to Chicago this September he will have bridged a gap almost twice as long.

Only Ireland's Christy O'Connor Jnr went longer. His debuted in 1975 and his second cap came in 1989 at The Belfry, when his dramatic win over Fred Couples helped Europe retain the trophy.

Lawrie, Open champion when he played in Boston, had the nerve to hit the opening drive of the week and in partnership with Colin Montgomerie won two and halved one of their four games together.

He also beat Jeff Maggert in the singles to finish joint top-scorer in the match with 3 1/2 points out of five.

The Aberdeen golfer has been an outsider looking in ever since, though. He was at Celtic Manor two years ago, but that was to commentate, not play.

Things started to change last March. Ranked 272nd in the world at the time, his win at the Andalucian Open was his first in nine years.

In December he was runner-up to Alvaro Quiros at the Dubai World Championship, in February he lifted the Qatar Masters - just as he did in 1999 - and on Sunday shot a joint best-of-the-day 66 to tie Justin Rose for second place.

They were four behind Donald, whose masterclass took him back to world number one ahead of McIlroy in the sixth change between them in under three months, but the rewards were still plenty.

As well as moving up the Ryder Cup table Lawrie jumped from 40th to 29th in the world, matching his highest-ever position of 12 years ago and, with Martin Laird missing the cut, making him Scotland's top player for the first time.

On skipping the US Open he said: "It's more of a scheduling thing for me. The big priority and the big goal for me is to get back in the Ryder Cup team.

"I feel that the US Open is not a venue that's ever suited to my game.

"Not going means I can have two weeks off (following this week's Wales Open) and concentrate on the run of five tournaments afterwards."

And on why his career is hitting the heights again Lawrie said: "I'm a better putter, I'm a slightly better ball-striker and I've been working out a little bit.

"I'm a little stronger, hitting the ball a bit further and playing a lot of golf at home.

"I was getting into a kind of rut of being quite technical and hitting balls instead of playing. When my boys (both promising players) got older I started playing more with them and now all of a sudden I'm tournament sharp all the time I feel."



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