The Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course has been the site of so many misty-eyed, cap-waving, Open Championship farewells down the years, the sheer volume of schmaltzy, nostalgic tears that have dribbled down on said brig’ has just about caused damp in the brickwork.

Paul Lawrie is not ready for a swansong in the championship he won in 1999 just yet, but the day is inching nearer. As a past champion, the Aberdonian has earned the right to play in golf’s oldest major until he is 60 but Lawrie, who turns 52 on New Year’s Day, certainly doesn’t want to become a ceremonial, bit part player. 

Yesterday, he confirmed that he won’t be playing in next year’s Open at St George’s but he will probably return in 2022 when the championship heads to St Andrews for its 150th staging.

“Playing The Open at St Andrews won’t be to say cheerio, it’s just because it’s St Andrews,” he said of this alluring, cradle of the game. “I may play in the years after that, you never know? But I don’t think I’ve been a good enough player to stand on the Swilcan Bridge and wave goodbye and have a greet. That was for the likes of Watson, Nicklaus, Faldo or Seve, not me.”

Despite his modesty, Lawrie remains a true Scottish great and a golfer held dear by many for his professional achievements and wider endeavours in bolstering the game in his homeland. After 620 events on the European Tour, a haul illuminated by eight wins and two Ryder Cup appearances, Lawrie retired from competition on the main circuit after October’s Scottish Open.

“It’s funny, you play 620 events and win just eight of them, so there’s a hell of lot of disappointment in there,” he said with a reflective chuckle. “I don’t really feel I could’ve won many more. Up until The Open win, I probably over-achieved given that I felt I wouldn’t be good enough to get on tour let alone win on it. After that? Well, if you are capable of winning an Open, then winning just four or five more titles from 1999 to retiring is probably underachieving. But it’s certainly not disappointing.”

Key to those early successes, of course, was Lawrie’s coach and great friend, Adam Hunter. Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of his premature passing and Lawrie will forever treasure his memory. “I went through a spell when I done a lot of tinkering with my swing,” he said. “People always assumed it was Adam doing that. But it was all me. I was the one who wanted to tinker to try to improve my technique. "He was the one who wanted me to play with rhythm, use what I had and focus on the things I was good at. It had been enough to win an Open, after all. He told me to focus on rhythm, on the short game and rest when I wasn’t playing. But I couldn’t do that. 

"It took me a long, long time to work out that he was absolutely spot on. Resting at tournaments is what makes better players not bashing your brains in on the range and trying to get your right elbow half-an-inch lower on the back swing. I couldn’t get my head round that. I just assumed I had to get better technically to be a better player. I only worked that out when I started playing better again in 2012 and won twice.

“I never worked on any technique in that time and I had a real purple patch. I finally got it into my head that my swing was my swing. Adam was well ahead of his time.”

With plenty of events to look forward to on the over-50s circuits on both sides of the Atlantic next year, Lawrie will keep the competitive fires burning. Throw in the tireless work of his Foundation, his management company duties and running his very own domestic tour and Lawrie performs more roles than Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets.

His Tartan Pro Tour, formed this year to provide playing opportunities in a coronavirus-ravaged schedule, will go from six events in 2020 to, hopefully, 12 next year. The ultimate goal is to have a Scottish feeder circuit which provides a direct route up the professional ladder. 

“The dream for 2022 is to have enough events and enough prize money so that we can get three or four players qualifying for the Challenge Tour,” he said. “I don’t see why we can’t do it. Going from six events this year to 11 or 12 next year will a huge step.”

As ever, Lawrie continues to step up to the plate for Scottish golf.