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Paul Lawrie sacks coach

The agonising slump in form which has seen Paul Lawrie, the last European golfer to win a major championship, drop to 123rd spot in the world rankings, yesterday prompted the Scot to dispense with the services of his long-term coach Adam Hunter on the eve of the British Masters and start afresh with Claude Harmon, the son of Butch, who teaches at King’s Acre, near Edinburgh.

The former Open champion regarded Hunter as an integral part of his success at Carnoustie in 1999 and admitted that parting company with a man who became a friend was the hardest telephone call he’d had to make since turning professional 18 years ago.

"It was a horrible thing to have to do and I didn’t like a second of making that call," confessed the Aberdonian. "Naturally, Adam told me he was very disappointed but he also said if I felt this was the right way for me to go then he was behind me. Adam is a good friend as well as a coach and to have to phone and tell him I felt I need something different was very hard."

Having changed caddies at the start of the season, replacing Colin Byrne with Paddy Byrne, and started work with the sports psychologist Jos Vanstiphout at the Masters - neither switch has arrested a decline in fortune - Lawrie felt the only course of action left open to him was a change of instructor.

When he looked at his performances over the past year, Lawrie, who rose to 30th in the world after Carnoustie, was shocked to discover 12 months had elapsed since he last played well for a full week and finished third at the Belfry in the 2003 Benson and Hedges.

"My feeling was that it had been an awfully long time since I’d entered a tournament and played really well," he admitted. "Last week in Italy I putted well, as I did at the Masters, but my ball striking wasn’t the best. That’s why I’ve decided to have a wee bit of a break from Adam and today I worked with Claude Harmon for a couple of hours."

Harmon, who is married to a Scot, lives in Glasgow. He also coaches Trevor Immelman, the promising South African who won the South African Open earlier this season.

The American hails from a famous golfing dynasty which includes a father best known for teaching Tiger Woods and an illustrious grandfather.

"As good a coach as Adam is, it’s just not been happening for me," Lawrie added. "In fact, it’s not been happening for a long time and it’s not getting any better. If anything, it was getting worse. I enjoyed the couple of hours I spent today with Claude and right away there was a better feeling.

"That’s nothing against Adam - it’s just a different opinion. I’m working on the same things as before, just with someone who has a little bit of a different approach and a different way of putting things over. I know as well as anyone that you can’t hit every shot perfectly. But I’ve been hitting shots which are unacceptable for someone who can play. It might take a few weeks or a few months with Claude, but I feel I have to give it a go."

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