High cut line catches some golfers by surprise at British Open

Scotland's Paul Lawrie and Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee nearly missed playing the weekend because they thought their scores were too high.

GULLANE, Scotland — They were still telling tales here Sunday about the elusive cut line after the first two rounds of the British Open, and how it caught several golfers by surprise.

First, there was Scotland's own Paul Lawrie, who won the 1999 British at Carnoustie the year that Jean Van de Velde lost his mind with some of the strangest shot attempts known to man and let Lawrie into a playoff, along with Justin Leonard.

Lawrie, 44, and in his 21st British Open, shot 81 the first day and 69 the second. Still, he was certain his eight over par would not make the cut. After all, as he said, "Eight over par?"

And so, as play continued on Friday afternoon, after which the field would be cut to 86 players, Lawrie got in the car and drove north to his home in Aberdeen, Scotland.

But the afternoon got drier and windier and increasingly difficult to play. And with no other players scoring well enough to move the cut line up, it went from six over to seven over, and on to eight.

"I didn't think seven over had a chance," Lawrie said, "never mind eight."

Lawrie got home from the three-hour trip, took his dog for a walk — "West Highland terrier named Bobo" — had dinner at home, went out back to regrip a set of irons, and started to get text messages. He had made the cut. So back in the car he got and back to Muirfield, where he arrived at 11:20 p.m.

"I don't think I've ever had to do that before," Lawrie said. "Thankfully, it's just up the road. Can you imagine if — I can't believe nobody went overseas home on an eight over."

Well, almost.

Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, 43, playing in his seventh British, shot 79-71 and was, like Lawrie, eight over.

He was already at Heathrow Airport in London when he found out. Had he been able to get on the Bangkok Airlines flight he wanted, he would have been in the air when the word came out that he was still in the field. But he returned, shot even-par 71 Saturday and 72 Sunday and will get more than enough to cover his flight back from London.

Lawrie finished 70-72, which will probably be his best British finish since he won 14 years ago.

Know the rules

Then there was the sad tale of Martin Laird, another Scotsman.

He was in contention starting Saturday's round, with 70-71. Then he got to the third hole, spent the next 20 minutes in various roughs and trouble, and took a nine.

Then, on No. 10, he drove it in the rough again, took his tee out to move his ball just enough to identify that it was his, and mentioned to a nearby official what he was doing, thinking that would cover him in the rules.

But Royal and Ancient officials didn't see it that way. They told him, walking down No. 16, that he would be penalized one shot because he hadn't notified his playing partner, Dustin Johnson, as well as an official.

"It's one of those lovely rules of golf," Laird said.

So, with a card that read nine on No. 3, plus a six on No. 10 and a double-bogey seven on No. 17, Laird went from contender to lost-in-the pack with an 81. To his credit, he bounced back with a 72 on Sunday, but had a hard time not lamenting what had been the day before.

"It wasn't like yesterday," he said, "when it was a freak show out there."

Slow burn

Then there were the woes of Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play Saturday, when officials said he took 2 minutes 12 seconds to hit a shot out of the rough after they deemed him ready to play.

His playing partner, Johnson Wagner, who was not penalized, was angry with the decision.

"I'm as against slow play as anybody, and I respect everything everybody is doing," he said, "but man, the kid was playing great today. ... I think the R&A should use better judgment.

"I pleaded in the scoring area for five minutes … if they had tried to penalize me, I would have gone ballistic."

Duf man

Jason Dufner shot a beautiful 67 Sunday, to close out an up-and-down tournament that read: 72-77-76-67. The 67 may come as quite a surprise to one innkeeper named Malcom Duck in nearby Aberlady.

Earlier in the week, Dufner came to the inn, Duck's at Kilspindie House, for dinner. Duck greeted him by asking, "You here for the golf?"



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