Golf: Scots paired together in South Africa

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PAUL LAWRIE and Colin Montgomerie have been paired together in tomorrow’s opening round of the £1.6 million Volvo Golf Champions event in South Africa.

It’s an eye-catching first-day combination and the two Scots will be hoping they can drag each other along at Durban Country Club. Lawrie heads into the event on a high after the Aberdonian enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in 2012.

Winning twice on the European Tour – in the Qatar Masters and the Johnnie Walker Championship – was praiseworthy on its own. But to climb into the world’s top 30 – he’s currently 29th – and also mark his Ryder Cup return after a 13-year absence by helping Europe pull off a stunning last-day comeback helped make it a year to savour for the 1999 Open champion.

Montgomerie, of course, was Scotland’s top-ranked player for so long but the eight-time European No. 1 has now slipped outside the world’s top 400.

It’s nearly six years since the 49-year-old recorded the last of his 31 wins on the European Tour and, for the first time, he’s admitted he no longer tees it up on that circuit feeling he’s got the measure of his opponents. “I can’t put my ball down on the first tee believing I can win – and I wish I had that feeling. I’m not there,” said the 2010 Ryder Cup-winning captain.

In effect, Montgomerie will be using the first six months of the 2013 campaign to get his game ready for the start of his seniors’ campaign.

He turns 50 just in time to make his Senior Open debut at Royal Birkdale in mid-July and, having recently been nominated to enter the Golf Hall of Fame later this year, he will automatically gain exemption to the Champions Tour in America.

“If I get my game in shape and get right up for this British Seniors at Birkdale, a biggy for me, I could put my tee in the ground there and say to myself: ‘I can win this’. I would like that feeling again,” he added.

“If everything goes brilliantly well and I have 25 putts a round, hit most fairways and greens, yes, I could win a European Tour event.

“(Last year’s) Johnnie Walker Championship was one where I finished four behind, with the last two putts shaving the hole – I don’t know how they didn’t go in. So I could have finished second. And, if you finish second, you can still win.”