After his uplifting exploits in 2012, you could forgive Paul Lawrie for eating, drinking and generally being merry over the festive period. "I wintered well, perhaps a wee bit too well," admitted the 44-year-old. "I ate too much, drank too much and put on a little weight, as you can imagine. You work hard all year, though, and you're allowed to down tools for a little bit."
Business will resume this week in South Africa when Lawrie joins an elite field for the Volvo Golf Champions' event and it will be business as usual for the rejuvenated Scot. Never one to make bold predictions or bawl from the rooftops about lofty targets, Lawrie will simply get his head down, put in the work and let his golf clubs do the talking. There was certainly plenty to talk about last season. Two European Tour victories, a rise back into the top 30 of the world rankings and, of course, a pivotal role in Europe's jaw-dropping victory over the USA in the Ryder Cup at Medinah.
For the golf writers, Lawrie's renaissance had us all feverishly scribbling away as we charted his progress on an almost daily basis and, like a cloot in a mangle, we wrung him dry during the course of the campaign. He must have been sick of the sight of us. So how do you top a year like last? For Lawrie, the answer is quite simple; there's still plenty of room for improvement.
"It was my most successful year as a professional, money-wise and in terms of finishes, while all the various tournament stats were the best I'd ever had," reflected the 1999 Open champion. "Yes, I finished 10th on the European order of merit too but you could say that is not a great year. It was a very good year but it's not as though I won the order of merit and won four or five events. If I'd done that, then I'd be thinking 'man, how the hell do you get better than that?'
"The danger would be getting too far ahead of myself. That's never been my way. I think I'll kick on again but the plan is to keep my head down and keep working on the same stuff. I'm not going to panic if things don't go too well in the first few weeks. I didn't set any goals last season and look what happened."
What happened, particularly in the Ryder Cup, will linger in the memory for a long time. As the Miracle of Medinah unfolded on that fraught, final day, Lawrie was simply majestic as he swept to a 5&3 win over Brandt Snedeker in a matchplay masterclass that was illuminated by a chip-in from the back of the fourth green. "I've watched it a few times," he added. "The first two days, I played really well and got nothing and I said to Jose Maria [Olazabal] that I would win a point. That round was the most satisfying for a long, long time.
"Playing at No.5 on the singles order, you have to win, especially when you're four points behind. If you lose, the whole team is in trouble. There was no hiding place. To be six- under-par for 15 holes under that intensity and pressure? Yes, I got a good feeling. I stood up to the plate and I did it. There was even a fist pump after that chip-in which is not like me. But, in a moment like that, it's difficult not to get carried away."
Those experiences in Chicago that week have whetted Lawrie's appetite for more and, while the Europe captain's armband for Gleneagles in 2014 continues to be tossed about between Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke, Lawrie has acted to distance himself from the scramble.
"I was asked by Jamie Spence [who sits on the European Tour's board] at the Race to Dubai final if I wanted to be considered and I said 'no'. I don't think it's possible to be in the top 30 in the world and be a Ryder Cup captain. Everybody knows that I want to play again and I've set my stall out on that. If I had the chance of the captaincy and I don't get there as a player then, yes, I'll be disappointed. But it's worth trying to play again, surely."
From being a five-handicapper when he turned professional in 1986, to becoming an Open champion in 1999 and returning to the Ryder Cup arena after a 13-year absence in 2012, you could fill a few chapters of a book with such accomplishments. And that's exactly what he's done. Lawrie's autobiography, An Open Book, does what it says on the cover and is a frank, revealing account of a sporting life that has had its fair share of ups and downs. His slide into depression, in the trying years that followed his Open triumph, remains one of the more eye-opening admissions.
"I would never have thought I would've been someone who would have suffered depression," he said. "Most of the time, I'm the furthest thing from depression you could ever get. But it doesn't matter how upbeat or positive you are, depression can affect anybody.
"There were only three or four people who knew that and I didn't want everyone knowing my business at the time. But a book is ideal for that. A few people have said I'm just lining my pockets. That's nonsense. I'm putting the money from the book back into the Foundation. I just wanted my story out there. Five handicapper to Open champion? There was always a story to be told."
The story will continue in Durban this week when Lawrie launches his 2013 campaign before travelling to the Middle East for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the defence of his Qatar Masters title.
It's set to be another rigorous year for Scotland's standard-bearer on the world stage. Globetrotting doesn't come easy, though. "The injury is still there," said Lawrie, on the left foot niggle that has caused him discomfort for more than a year now. "But when do I have an operation? I'd need a year to recover. I'm 44 and playing nicely. I can't just stop for a year now. As my wife would say, I just need to man up."
As far as Scottish golf is concerned, Lawrie continues to be the man.
Contextual targeting label: