Aberdeen’s Paul Lawrie says the “signs are good” ahead of his return to Tour action.
Lawrie, 50, will play the Oman Open next week, before the Qatar Masters –starting March 7 – after recovering from foot surgery.
The 1999 Open champion at Carnoustie, Lawrie ended his 2018 season early to finally have a problem taken care of which developed before Europe’s miraculous Ryder Cup victory at Medinah in 2012.
“Chippy”, as he is affectionately known because of his watertight short-game, said: “We’ve booked our flights and hotel for Oman and Qatar, so I’m on my way.
“I’ve only played two 18 holes – two full rounds since surgery.
“So I thought Oman and Qatar being out there and a little bit warmer would help me see where I am, where my game is and whether I can crack on and play or not.
“The signs are good, my foot’s been brilliant. My back’s not been 100%, but you’d expect that from such a long lay-off.
“I’ve not played on the Tour properly since April.”
Lawrie, who yesterday announced his new charity Pro-Am event to be held at Gleneagles on July 15, has spoken often of how a problem which started as an uncontrollable tapping of his left foot when he played developed into the foot collapsing every time he swung the club.
However, the now Senior Tour-eligible player, revealed how a chance encounter finally got to the root of the issue.
Lawrie said: “I was in Lundin Links’ clubhouse after I’d announced I wasn’t going to play again the rest of the year and Stuart Barton, a physio, was behind me in the queue.
“He said: ‘I’m really sorry to hear. I know you’ve had lots of people having a look at it, but I’ve got a practice just up the road, I’d love to have a look.’
“He asked me to walk up and down and straight away he said: ‘you’ve got a ruptured tendon and problem with the ligament in your foot, that’s why it’s collapsing when you swing.’
“He contacted Gordon Mackay, who’s one of his best mates.
“I was in Munich and everywhere trying to get my foot fixed and Stuart noticed it straight away.
“I’d never met him before.
“But I’ve been rehabbing with him the whole way through. He’s phenomenal at his job, just phenomenal.”
Mackay performed Lawrie’s surgery in September and the golfer says the medic is delighted with his progress.
He said: “He’s extremely happy.
“I think it’s taken a bit longer than he thought to recover.
“I probably started hitting balls a bit early.
“It was quite a big op he did and a big scar on my foot.
“I had a ruptured tendon, torn ligament and some bone spurs on it.
“You just assume nowadays it (surgery) is going to be keyhole or whatever.
“You’re looking at 14 or 15 weeks, but for me it’s been a bit longer.”
Lawrie is now painkiller free while playing for the first time in “six or seven years”.
He said his foot felt “really strong” while playing at Montrose in the North-east Alliance last week.
In his time off he’s had plenty to smile about, with long-time Paul Lawrie Foundation player David Law winning on the European Tour for the first time – at the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia – after only five starts.
Lawrie, who thinks Law’s biggest asset is the unteachable ability to win coming down the stretch when he’s got the chance, said: “He came in on Monday with his little girl – and I met him when he was a little boy.
“I’m chuffed for him, and you can see from the reaction to his win what a popular guy and nice boy he is.
“I’ve not seen a reaction like that for a long time.
“He’d be the first to admit it happened quicker than he would’ve thought – he’s only played five events as a full cardholder.
“It’s up to him (how far he can go), but he’s obviously going to get a lot of confidence from that.
“We had our chat this week.
“He’s got to knuckle down pretty quickly and get back on the range, get back on the chipping green.
“He’ll have spells coming up where he doesn’t play his best and he’s got to dig in.”
Lawrie is also pleased with how another protege, Sam Locke, has adjusted to pro life after winning the Silver Medal for top amateur at Carnoustie last summer, revealing he’s had chats with the 20-year-old about the importance of getting the ball in the hole above all else at this level.
The Farmfoods Paul Lawrie Invitational at Gleneagles will see groups of one Tour pro, one celebrity and two amateurs tee it up for charities, including Lawrie’s foundation, the Doddie Weir Foundation and Beatson.
Taking place on the Monday between the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club and Open at Royal Portrush, Lawrie hopes the event will prove popular.
His annual challenge match in the north-east will be unaffected, with Women’s Open winner Catriona Matthew this year’s opponent.
Lawrie said: “We also have the Paul Lawrie Challenge Match at the golf centre – that’s still going to go ahead.
“I’m playing Catriona Matthew this year, so I better get practising.
“That’s on July 8 at the golf centre.”