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Paul Lawrie reaps benefit of new coach

Former British Open champion Paul Lawrie found a coaching change worked to his advantage on Thursday when the Briton took a share of the Andalucia Open first-round lead.

Scot Lawrie, the 1999 major winner at Carnoustie, carded a five-under-par 65 at the Parador course in Malaga to hold a one-shot advantage with last year’s winner Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark.

Five-times tour winner Lawrie has worked for several years with Bob Torrance, the father of ex-Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance and coach to triple major champion Padraig Harrington.

Without a win since 2002, though, Lawrie felt it was time for a change and last month returned to his former teacher, ex-tour winner Adam Hunter.

Hunter is battling leukemia but Lawrie is confident his fellow-Scot will be able to help his game.

“Adam is out of hospital and making a recovery so I felt it would be good to go back to working with him. I learned a lot with Bob but I felt I was no longer getting any benefit from long trips to see him.”

Lawrie also put his good form down to playing competitive practice tournaments with fellow pros in Spain during a lengthy break.

Co-leader Kjeldsen has found only limited success playing two World Golf Championships in America sandwiched around the Malaysian Open, in the last month.

The diminutive Dane gave himself hope of back-to-back Andalucia titles with three opening birdies which he called “a dream start”.

Kjeldsen, who also won the 2008 Volvo Masters in Andalucia, said he was happy to be even able to defend his title. “The tour sent us a memo warning us that everywhere here was saturated by weeks of heavy rain. The Spanish have done an amazing job with this course.”

Dutchman Joost Luiten is one of seven players sharing third place. Luiten is recovering from a career-threatening wrist injury which he sustained just as he was beginning to make a real impact in the professional ranks with two victories on the secondary Challenge Tour and a runner-up spot in the KLM Open on the full tour in 2007.

After successful surgery the 24-year-old from near Den Haag holds 62nd place on the money-list.

“I had to take eight months off to get fit again,” Luiten told Reuters, “and it was a tough time. Nobody was sure at first what was wrong with the wrist but it apparently stems from an accident I had when I was a little boy.”

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