What they said: Martin LairdMarch 27, 2011
PGA TOUR staff
MORE INTERVIEWS: Arnold Palmer Invitational transcript archive
DOUG MILNE: We would like to welcome the winner of the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard, Martin Laird. I know that's obviously got a sweet sound to it, your second career PGA TOUR win. With this win, you pick up 500 FedExCup points and are currently No. 4 in the season-long standings. Interesting day. A lot of back and forth. You had the lead, you lost the lead, you got the lead again but you got the job done, in pretty dramatic fashion there with that 2 putt on 18. If you can just talk a little bit about the week and the round and how you feel to be looking at this trophy right here.
MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, as you said, that sounds very nice, winning here at Bay Hill and Mr. Palmer's tournament. Obviously very, very happy. That was a hell of a day. That was a tough fight out there. You know, the golf course is playing very, very difficult. To be honest I didn't feel like I had my swing really all day. Pretty much hit it everywhere the first until about the last four holes.
You know, the two clubs that have been good for me all week, my driver and my putter. They have held me in all week and they really came through strong today. I couldn't be any happier.
Q. You talked yesterday about how you knew it's difficult to win out here and that it would be tough today, but if someone had said, I'll give you a 75 now, would you have taken it? Would you have thought it would be this tough to win?
MARTIN LAIRD: I wouldn't have taken it. No one is going to take a 75 going into the last round of a tournament.
But I knew it was going to be this tough to win. I didn't know I would win it in this fashion being this tough. I knew there was going to be someone playing well and Steve Marino obviously played great today, birdieing the last, put the extra pressure on me coming up 18. It was a battle out there, but you know, it makes it even sweeter at the end when I got this trophy.
Q. Is it a roller coaster emotionally??
MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, you know, I tried to stay pretty calm, pretty patient all day, even after my 3 putt on 7. 8 really helped me after that. I hit a perfect tee shot down there and maybe one of the best shots I hit all day was the second shot to that hole because it's just a nasty golf hole.
And you know, after that, it was a fight all day. But obviously very pleased.
Q. You mentioned struggling for the first 14 holes. How did you pull it how did you pull it together on the last four? What happened there?
MARTIN LAIRD: You know, it really the last four holes set up perfect for me. They are all kind of left to right holes. You know, 15, 16, you have to cut it off you don't have to, but it's a cut off the tee. 17 is the same. You want to start it left and work it towards the pin, and 18 is exactly the same.
Those last four holes, because a hole like 14, that hole has just owned me all week. That's not a cut hole. So I knew that coming down the stretch. I knew I had been playing the par 5s really well.
My second shot into 16, I had to dig pretty deep for that one, because I had obviously been struggling all day, especially my long irons, pretty much hitting it right all day. And the worst thing I could do there was bail out right and stand up and hit it right where I wanted. You know, hit it about ten yards further than I thought I could, but it was a big swing and that gave me a lot of confidence coming down the last two holes.
Q. In the larger scheme of things, were you aware that Paul won in Spain today, and what does this mean for Scottish golf today??
MARTIN LAIRD: I found that out this morning, and that's obviously fantastic that he won on The European Tour. You know, Sandy Lyle I think won last week on the European Senior Tour, as well so, that's three win by Scottish golfers in the last two weeks.
It's no secret that Scottish golf has been down for a few years after Monty's dominance. Now we have got a lot of good players. We just need to get up there and get experience and to have two wins in one week is obviously huge.
Q. Curious how you felt after 11, coming off that green with a double.
MARTIN LAIRD: You know, it was kind of mixed emotions. Obviously I was not very happy after making double. But I knew, like I said, I knew I had two par 5s left, and I had been driving the ball so well all week and felt really comfortable on those two holes.
My caddie, you know what, a great job he did. Walking down to that green when I said, "We still have two par 5s left."
And he looked at me and goes, "We still have got this thing," pointing at the putter. And he goes, "We are not out of this yet. "
That's really what it came down to in the end was me making those big putts.
Q. On 15 did you purposely play away from the flag there or when you left yourself about 20 feet right of the bunker, or were you going at the flag and just drifted it to the right??
MARTIN LAIRD: On which?
Q. 15. When you made the birdie.
MARTIN LAIRD: Well, I was in the left rough kind of behind tree, and I couldn't hit a high shot. So I had to hit I hit an 8 iron and I think I had about 140 front and I just had to punch it up there. There was an upslope to the front of the green and we were just trying to bounce it up and get it on front of the green somewhere.
That pin, even the middle of the fairway you can't really get high at the flag. It's a pin you just hit it in there pin high right. And I hit a great shot that just got up there in the front. And I had been leaving my putts short all day.
Last week, a couple of times that I've had a chance to win recently, I've been hitting my putts probably too firm on Sunday. And today was up, so I've been hitting them a little soft. And that's the last thing I thought on 15 was, don't leave this one short, because I knew Steve was playing great. I didn't know what he was doing ahead of me and, I knew I had to make some birdies and I just did not want to leave that one short and it was very nice to see that one go in.
Q. Being can you talk about how difficult the 2 putt was on 18, what you saw there, and if you can describe now looking back at your emotions, when you were able to get that second one in.
MARTIN LAIRD: You know, if 3 putting the last hole of a tournament serve going to help you; I walked on that green, and I was taking nothing for granted. I'm not saying that at The Barclays last year I took it for granted, but I definitely had my concentration full as hard as I could there on 18. I wasn't going to let that one golf.
That made me extra motivated because I wasn't going to let a tournament like this slip through my fingers again by 3 putting the last.
You know, it was obviously a very tough putt. My caddie and I have talked about it; everyone practices that putt in practice rounds, because you know on Sunday, if you have the lead, you're going to be hitting it left and putting it. So we had a fairly good idea what it was going to do.
The last thing was my putting coach and I, we work on sometimes I get kind of stuck over the ball. After my last look at the hole and I just thought to myself, don't get stuck looking at that golf ball. As soon as I come back, just let it go and feel it, and obviously hit a great putt down there.
Q. When the last putt went in, what was your emotion??
MARTIN LAIRD: I think you can see how much it meant to me. That was a battle all day. And it almost makes it more sweet to win it the way I did. You know, it's such a huge tournament.
A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have thought I could have won a tournament like this, and to now be here sitting here with the trophy, obviously it was a huge putt.
Q. With all of the back and forth on the leaderboard today, how much did you actually look at the leaderboard coming down the back nine, and what was sort of your emotions throughout the day as you saw the movement??
MARTIN LAIRD: I looked at it when I made the turn. Then after I hit it in the bunker, or after I hit it in the water on 11, I tried not to see what they were doing up front. I knew I was behind. I didn't really want to see if they were pulling away or whatever. I just knew I had to get my head down and make some birdies coming in.
I saw Steve when I went back to 16 tee. I looked up at that board and I saw he had bogeyed 15, so it was right there again.
And obviously I heard the roar on 18 when he made birdie. I saw that on 17, so I knew over my putt that I had to make that one and par the last to win. So I mean, I guess I was paying attention in the end.
Q. The guys from the British Isles are known for playing a low, running ground game. You're the opposite with a high fade. Is that something you've always had or did you develop it when you came to America??
MARTIN LAIRD: No, when I first came over here, I hit it really low. I just hit a low draw, kind of a low, trap draw that a lot of guys from Scotland play. I think going to school in Colorado, when I went out there, and a lot of the guys on our team were from Colorado and all hit it into orbit, because you want to do that there so the ball goes farther. I think that helped me. I gradually started hitting it higher and higher and.
Now I've gone from hitting it really low to one of the highest ball flights on TOUR. When you are playing a golf course like this with greens this firm, you need to hit it as high as you can. You just can't hold greens like 17 if you can't hit it way up in the air. I mean, I even hit it that 6 iron I hit on 17 today was way up in the air, and it still didn't hold the green.
It's definitely what you need to have over here to play majors and tough golf courses like this, which is really set up like a major.
Q. Parts of your swing, a weak your grip were those things it you developed for hitting it high yourself??
MARTIN LAIRD: No. I think just over time, I'm just gradually hitting it higher; just playing in Colorado and playing U.S. style golf courses and not playing in much wind.
I went I guess it was a battle my last year in college, and from then, I've always hit it high. It's not something I've consciously worked on. It's just something, to play better golf in the States on tough golf courses I had to start hitting it higher.
Q. Do you think what you went through today will do more for you going forward than if you would have shot 71 and stayed atop the leaderboard the whole time and won by one??
MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, I really do. You know, I mentioned yesterday that the biggest thing I took out of The Barclays was you don't have to play perfect golf to win golf tournaments. Because that day I struggled with my swing really on the last day, too, and nearly won that one.
I think I took a lot out of this, knowing that I can still win a tournament like this, with this strong a field and this tough a golf course, when really, for most of the day, I had no clue where the ball was gong well, I did, it was going right most of the time. (Laughter).
I really had no control over my golf ball, I should say, with my irons. The one thing that held me there was I still drove it great.
I put that new driver in at Doral three weeks ago, and I have been kind of I'm not someone that changes equipment much. I had had my driver before for three years and TaylorMade had been pushing me to try this new one, and I'm glad they did because this thing is unbelievable.
Q. When did you know today was going to be a struggle??
MARTIN LAIRD: You know to be totally honest, after my last four holes yesterday. I didn't hit it great coming in yesterday and I went and hit some balls when I finished yesterday and tried to work on a couple of things that my coach and I talk about when I start to struggle. I didn't warm up great, but I knew it wasn't going to be a day I was going to go out and just kind of flush it and have perfect control with my irons. I knew it was going to be a day I had to fight hard. And I holed a lot of putts. That's really what it all came down to.
Q. You referenced a little while ago the struggles with Scottish golf. Just wondering if you have any theories on why that is, and also, secondly, if you think that it might do some of those guys over there some good to come over here like you did??
MARTIN LAIRD: You know why, why it's happened, I don't have an exact answer. Scottish golf the last, I mean, pretty much every year in amateur golf is really good. We always do well in all of the big amateur tournaments. We won the Eisenhower Trophy which is the world team championship a couple of years ago.
But for some reason, guys trying to make the transition from amateur golf to professional golf has just not been working. I was lucky enough when I was over here when I graduated Colorado State, I had a group of sponsors that gave me some money to play and I didn't have to worry about paying my bills and entry fees. I could just go work on my game and try and get better.
People back in Scotland don't always have that luxury. I believe now they have a system set up with a couple of sponsors and I think some government funding that they are going to try and bridge that gap between amateur golf and guys turning pro. So hopefully in the next because there's no doubt we have the talent in the country. Just that transition, we need to get better.
Q. You stayed here; right? You never went back?
MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, I never went back. I graduated from college and stayed here and played professionally.
Q. The punch you hit on 18 that, had to be a flashback to your younger days; that's the shot you came back to America with, the 8 iron on 15.
MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, to think about it, it's kind of like a links shot you're trying to bounce it up on the front of the green. The limbs are in the way and I couldn't go high. I had to go low. Luckily I had a decent enough lie, I could hit the shot and kind of control it. It came out perfectly.
Q. How did you get to Colorado State? I know that's not a straight road. That had to be a wound about trip.
MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, good recruiting. I liked the coach. They gave me a nice scholarship offer and it was a good school. Sounded like a great place to go. Wasn't a big city -- I didn't want to really come over here; I came over here when I was 17; I had never been to the States before. I didn't really want to move straight into a big city. I think I would have been a little intimidated.
So it was a great place to go and met a lot of great people there and still friend with a lot of people up there.
Q. Did you commit before you seen saw the school or do you know??
MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, I never came on a visit. I had never been to the States before. When I came over, two or three days as before class started, my parents came over with me I came over and loved it, loved it right away, and couldn't be happier with my decision to go there.
Q. It goes without saying that playing in the final pairing on a Sunday is a lot of pressure. How much would you attribute a final round 75 to overcoming course conditions and overcoming the pressure and nerves that goes with being in the final round on Sunday??
MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, it's definitely a bit of both. If you just go out and play this course on a Wednesday and the Pro Am, it's going to be tough the way it's set up. But if you add a tournament and a title like this on top of that, it makes it a very, very difficult golf course.
Those it greens get very, very firm and they get very quick and especially at the end of the field, they get a little cut up around the holes, spike marks and stuff. But you know, obviously I knew what was on the line today, and that definitely makes it tougher when you're out there.
Q. What did Arnold Palmer say to you green side there? What can you tell us about that?
MARTIN LAIRD: You know, he just said, "Congratulations. That was great."
I said to him, it means a lot to win his tournament. Wouldn't want any other one. What a legend of the game he is. It really doesn't get any better than to meet him coming off as the champion of his tournament.
Q. Sort of a two part one, the first one is, do you feel now that you've banished that 3 putt from The Barclays from 88 feet, 2 putting, winning the tournament? Do you feel like that's gone? And secondly with, your ball flight and putting being so solid, do you look at Augusta and think, you know, I could win there after winning in a place like this?
MARTIN LAIRD: The first part, you know, to be honest, I forgot about that 3 putt a long time ago in terms of it playing on my mind. Obviously I still remember it.
The only thing you can do from things like that is learn from it and draw from it. Like I said if there's ever a good time to do it, I take what I did at The Barclays and learn from it, and I did that today obviously with a lot harder 2 putt here.
As I said, it's not like I took that one for granted but I probably got a little ahead of myself there at The Barclays. Obviously very pleased to 2 putt from where I was on 18.
And you know, I went and played Augusta the Monday of Doral. I went to go and see it. Never been there before. Loved the golf course. I feel like it really does set up pretty good for me with hitting it high. And I know those greens will get real firm like this, and obviously putting is probably the strongest part of my game right now and that's really what it all comes down to coming down the stretch at Augusta. I can't wait to get there.
Q. Coming into that last hole, you're sitting over an 85 , 90 foot putt. Throughout the four days, you had been getting close distance 60 , 70 yard putts all four days. So when you stood over that, taking The Barclays out of it, are you thinking: I'm getting this close no matter what? And what are you doing specifically with your putting stroke to get you so close to the hole?
MARTIN LAIRD: You know, standing over it, I'm not really one thing my coach and I, Dave Stockton Junior, and I work on is kind of just using feel and forgetting it; you know, don't get too focused on the result. You know, feel it. And as I say I have a tendency sometimes to get stuck over the ball, especially on big putts.
I was really just the one on 6, the one on 6, and I know if he was watching. He was probably thinking I took an extra look. The big thing with what we do, your routine, doesn't matter, if you have got a 3 footer to win a tournament or 3 footer on Thursday on the first hole, it's still the same routine. And the one on 6 I took an extra look because I wasn't real comfortable with the putt, and I ended up leaving it 12, 15 feet short.
On 18, you know what, I said to myself, even though I knew what was on the line, I was working hard on not taking an extra peak at the whole and trusting what we do and letting it go and using my feel, and obviously was very pleased to see it get up there a couple of feet from the hole.
Q. You looked extremely nervous in the morning before going out during warm up and so on. Was that the most you've had to deal with, all that waiting in the morning and the history of previous finishes? Was that the most nervous you've been?
MARTIN LAIRD: I don't know if I was nervous. Might have appeared like it.
I kind of thought to myself last night and this morning, I've let a few tournaments go. And I wanted to come out here today and really, I wasn't going to be joking around. This was my tournament to win, and that's really what I was thinking coming out. I played great all week. Had a two shot lead and felt comfortable with the golf course and I wasn't coming out this morning all laughing and joking and smiling. I was out here to win this tournament.
I don't know if that was the difference. But I think I try to keep my concentration level as high as I could all day. I learnt that from The Barclays when I let a stupid shot go on the third hole of the day and made a triple. That's the kind of thing you just learn from past experiences and, I tried not to get distracted all day and obviously it paid off.
Q. Considering that you said you didn't finish the last four holes yesterday very well, you started with a two stroke lead. When you went down three, were you at a point where it seemed like it was slipping away, like I'm just going to try to salvage the best finish I can; did you consider that you still had a chance to win??
MARTIN LAIRD: I never thought about not winning. That's not to say I knew I was going to win, but that was the focus. I wasn't out here looking at leaderboard thinking, now I'm a shot ahead of whatever. In a way, when I saw I was 3 down, I didn't have a choice. I had to start playing some golf. I had to make birdies. Steve was playing too good. He wasn't going to drop all the way back to where I was. That was really focus on last few holes. It wasn't a position finish; it was trying to get this trophy.
Q. What level of kind of junior player were you before you came over here??
MARTIN LAIRD: I played for Scotland, represented Scotland Under 16s, junior, and full men's team. I was never the No. 1 guy or No. 2 guy. I was a team of six guys I would be probably about the middle guy, three or four guy.
But I had a pretty good record. I played for Scotland full cap (ph) as a men's cap once, 2003, the internationals. That gave me a lot of confidence. I went there, first time playing. We played six matches and I won four and halved two. Didn't lose a match and that really was a big confidence boost for me, going against the best players from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales the. Not losing a match was definitely a nice boost when I was an amateur.
Q. Solid college career, not No. 1
MARTIN LAIRD: Exactly.
Q. You were going to get here one day or
MARTIN LAIRD: You know, I'm not someone that really thinks about, you know, where obviously I know where I want to go, but I've always said I just try to get better every year. I knew I wasn't good enough when I first came over. I knew I had to work hard.
Probably a lot of people think I don't practice because I've been talking about that this week, but over the last the practice, it's really paying off. Over the last few years, I've always been a grinder. And all of those hours on the range, and all of those hours on the greens, chipping green, whatever, last few years, it all pays off eventually.
It's nice to know that now be playing well enough where I don't feel like I don't have to go and spend hours upon hours on the range. I still have to practice, but I don't have to put in all that work that I used to do; and a lot of that as I said the other day is a testament to my coach getting my golf game where it is.
Q. Since your only win before this was in Vegas a couple years ago, I would be curious at what point did you start thinking about how good you could be, and why.
MARTIN LAIRD: You know, obviously winning Vegas was huge. You know, the way I did it, holing a nice putt on 18 and then getting in a playoff and winning was very, very big.
Then going there the start of the next year after my win, we went to Hawai'i and at Kapalua, and I really had a chance to win that tournament with four holes to go. I plugged the ball in the bunker, 3 putted I think 14 or something and plugged the ball in the lip of the bunker with three holes to go. With three or four holes to go, I had a chance to win that tournament and that really was a sign to me. That was a very strong field obviously, all of the winners from the years before and I was out there, first ever time on the golf course and I had a chance to win it and I took a lot of confidence from that one.
Really the strength when I started to realize was the end of last year when I had a strong finish, three top 5s in pretty big events to finish The Barclays obviously, as well, a very, very strong field. That was when I started to realize I've probably always lacked a little bit of self confidence and that was probably when I started to realize that I could be one of the best players.
DOUG MILNE: Martin, congratulations. We appreciate your time.