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Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK

Lawrie stunned by Open drama

Lawrie: Handled pressure from qualifying to play-off

New Open champion Paul Lawrie will enjoy a hero's return to his club this week after his "fairy story" victory at Carnoustie.

Paul Lawrie's winning speech
Lawrie beat Frenchman Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard of the US in a four-hole play-off to win the 128th Open.

The 30-year-old is the first Scot to win the Open on home soil since 1910, and first to triumph anywhere since Sandy Lyle at Sandwich in 1985.

Paul Lawrie: "It's an awesome prospect"
Last week he was ranked just 159th in the world - but his club captain at the Newmachar course near Aberdeen was always confident throughout his dramatic play-off win.

"I always knew he could do it," said George Mitchell.

George Mitchell: "The young will have a role model"
"Everyone was glued to the TV as soon as we realised he was in with a real chance."

Lawrie revealed he did not share his captain's confidence - or that of his coach.

"It feels really good and I can't believe it. I am going to cry," he warned.

"My coach Adam Hunter kept saying I'd make the play-off but I thought no way."

Last chance success

Justin Leonard: "I really feel for Van de Velde"
His record, even during qualifying, was one of rising to the occasion when he had to.

A final round of 67 had taken him into the play-off but a run of four under par on the final nine holes of his qualifying round had saved him in the first place.

[ image: Lawrie is looking forward to Ryder Cup and Masters]
Lawrie is looking forward to Ryder Cup and Masters
"I played the best I ever have and eventually made it through by two," he explained.

The sky is the limit for the new champion, who will never have to qualfiy for the Open again - and can look forward to at least two big transatlantic trips.

Finishing in the top four ensured him a ticket to the Masters in Atlanta next year, while he is now second in the Ryder Cup standings.

French joker

Lawrie also revealed that the unfortunate Van de Velde was a lucky charm for him.

"I played with Jean when I won in Qatar and he is a cracking guy," he said.

"Anyone who watched the play-off would have seen him cracking jokes with the crowd.

[ image: Problems flowed for Van de Velde on the 18th]
Problems flowed for Van de Velde on the 18th
"Jean had the tournament in his pocket. He went for his shot and should have won. Thankfully for me he didn't."

For a man who threw the title away, Van de Velde was in good spirits.

"Don't be so sad!" he told the world's media.

"I made plenty of friends out there...I let a Scottish man win."

Van de Velde also defended his bizarre performance at the 18th hole, where he hit a grandstand, water and a bunker, before going paddling.

Jean Van de Velde: "It wasn't for me"
"The ball was three-quarters out of the water. If the mud underneath was firm I could definitely get it out," he explained.

"When I got in it started to was trying to tell me something."

But the Frenchman was keen to put it all into perspective.

"There are worse things in life. I read the newspapers this morning and some terrible things happen to people."

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