By his own admission, Paul Lawrie’s prospects of ever becoming a Ryder Cup captain now appear to sit somewhere between slim and none.
That would make 2024 the Scot’s next realistic hope, by which time more candidates will likely have laid claim to the gig – Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, for instance – and Lawrie will, in all probability, be deemed too far removed from the top of the game (he’ll be 56 by the time the 2024 match gets underway).
"Everyone who has ever played in the Ryder Cup wants to be the captain and I am no different," he told BBC Scotland yesterday. "But it would be unlikely for it to happen for me now.”
It’s not a concession but the hand is ready to take off the cap.
Some will scoff at the suggestion that Lawrie could or should have been handed the team's reins. Many have. That, though, says infinitely more about them than the Aberdonian and his credentials. Almost from the instant he converted from four feet to win The Open in 1999, he has had to endure baseless, disrespectful accusations of being a “lucky” major champion.
“Van de Velde threw it away.” That’s a particularly recurring refrain. Yes, the Frenchman’s collapse was spectacular – but the championship is played over 72 holes, not 71. At the end of those, Lawrie, Van de Velde and Justin Leonard couldn’t be separated. The four extra holes they played delivered a deserving champion in Lawrie. Contrary to ignorant opinion, you can’t fluke that.
The Ryder Cup captaincy is a strange thing. There is no known list of cast-in-stone criteria a golfer must meet in order to be eligible. If the committee decides you’re the man for the job, then you’ll almost certainly get it.
Even so, if you take account everything Lawrie has done and achieved in his career, you can make an extremely compelling case for him.
Major champion? Tick.
Ryder Cup winner? Tick.
Played on multiple Ryder Cup team? Tick.
Multiple European Tour winner? Tick.
Former Ryder Cup vice-captain? Tick.
Loyal to the European Tour? Tick.
PGA background? Served on the Players’ Committee? Popular with his peers? Tick, tick and tick again.
That’s to say nothing of the incredible work he has done with his eponymous foundation. The opportunities he has created for young people to get into golf are quite incredible and enough to put organisations whose responsibility that is to shame. One of those to have benefited from Lawrie's commitment to junior golf, David Law, is now a European Tour cardholder. Many others are on the Challenge Tour.
To be clear, creating top professionals is not why the Paul Lawrie Foundation exists – but the fact it has done so is testament to how brilliantly structured, well-run and inclusive it is, none of which happens by accident.
Some people are in golf for all that they can get out of it. Nobody could accuse Lawrie of that. He has put more than most back into the game.
It’s not for me to question how European Ryder Cup captains are chosen. Nine wins in the last 12 editions of the match would suggest that, more often than not, the process identifies the right man.
However, there is a growing belief among some fans that an element of “jobs for the boys” is creeping in to the decision-making process. In other words, you’ll get your go when it’s your turn and in lieu of your achievements and/or contribution to both the European Tour and the sport.
So long as the process continues to produce the right outcome, few will mind. However, if and when the winning stops, questions will rightly be asked.
Here, though, is the nub of the matter and from where Lawrie should be able to draw immense consolation.
No kid grows up dreaming of being a Ryder Cup captain. The putts they hole are to win majors.
The Claret Jug sitting in his house is a daily reminder to Lawrie that he is one of the few to have lived every young golfer’s dream.
History will remember him as an Open champion. And that's what really matters.
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