Each week, PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton offers his Power Rankings for the weekly TOUR event as well as his Sleeper picks. But what about the players who don't make the Power Rankings but who can't really be considered Sleepers? Bolton will make one "wild card" selection from the large group of players who fall into that middle range but might rise up to claim the title. This week's pick is ...
Clearly enjoys playing TPC Summerlin. It's not just the site of his first of three PGA TOUR victories -- that occurred in a playoff in 2009 -- but he nearly repeated, getting dusted by Jonathan Byrd's hole-in-one in a playoff in 2010. Laird's actual scoring average in 16 rounds on the course is 67.188. He's carded a 62 and a pair of 63s. You're reading about him here instead of in the Power Rankings because he's always struggled with consistency while falling short of earning a label as a horse for courses (although that just may apply to TPC Summerlin). To wit, going all the way back to the 2012 Open Championship, he's picked off a win, a pair of T5s and a T21, but finished outside the top 25 in the other 26 events, 10 of which resulted in a missed cut.
Scotland’s hometown hero, Martin Laird, may have had his Open Championship hopes derailed at Muirfield’s third hole. Laird took two unplayable lies on the par-4 and scored a quintuple-bogey 9. Laird had birdied the second hole to reach 2 under par.
It started when Laird shanked his approach shot out of the thick rough. He took an unplayable lie, then chunked his next shot into more rough right of the green. He took another unplayable after his next swing failed to move the ball. He finally reached the green with his seventh shot and two-putted for nine.
Laird's problems didn't end there. He was informed on the 16th hole that he'd incurred a one-stroke penalty on No. 10 for not properly informing fellow competitor Dustin Johnson that he was marking and lifting his ball in order to identify it. "I said I'm going to identify my ball, but I didn't shout it across the fairway loud enough so he could hear," Laird said. A "deflated" Laird made bogey on No. 16 and double-bogey at the 17th to shoot 81 and fall to 51st. He started the day in sixth place.
Laird was still having the best Open Championship of his career. The Scot missed the cut in his first three Open Championships and finished 72nd last year.
Martin Laird has won three times on the PGA TOUR.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- If Friday was Martin Laird's bad ball-striking round and he still managed to shoot even par, then the Scotsman feels pretty good about his chances entering the weekend of The Open Championship.
"I don't think scores are going anywhere this afternoon with this east wind," he said. "I think the course plays harder with the east wind, and those greens are going to get faster."
Laird had an up and down round of 71 on Friday that included three bogeys and a birdie in his first seven holes followed by a string of four straight birdies that moved him to 3 under through the tournament. The three-time PGA TOUR champion couldn't quite coax that number home but he'll start the third round in red numbers at 141.
He wasn't too disappointed with the finish, either. Laird managed a good bogey at the 17th when his tee shot plugged under the lip of a fairway bunker and he holed clutch 6-footer there, then he ot up and down from the greenside bunker at No. 18 to finish on a positive note.
"Overall I didn't really play that well today," Laird said. "So shooting even par shows my game is in a good spot, because I really didn't hit a good golf shot until the seventh or eighth hole today. I struggled coming out. I had a nice little hot stretch there in the middle and I held it together coming in."
While Laird wasn't happy with his iron play, his putter held him in good stead. He said the green speed was noticably different in Friday morning -- he left a 20-footer 5 feet short at the second hole -- but noted it had started to quicken as the round progressed.
"It wasn't like a foot slower; it was two or three feet slower," he said. "But I think they had to do that, otherwise by this afternoon they'd be unplayable. The greens are fantastic. The whole course is fantastic. They're fast, but they're absolutely perfect."
Laird is the highest-placed Scot on the leaderboard but he said he didn't feel any extra pressure.
"I think it will help me more than hurt me," Laird said. "I probably have higher expectations for myself than everyone in the crowd. It's not something I'm really worried about. You can only look at it as something that can help up you. They can pull you along.
"Even as I was struggling, you hear people shouting "come on!" and giving you support, and that's only a good thing."
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Martin Laird always enjoys returning to his native Scotland. His trip home got a little sweeter when he learned Monday that he’d earned a spot in the British Open field.
Laird, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, arrived in London last Friday before flying up to Scotland. He called earning a spot in the year’s third major “a nice boost.” This will be Laird’s fifth consecutive British Open. The high-ball hitter missed the cut in his first three appearances, then finished 72nd last year at Lytham. This year’s Open will be held at Muirfield in his native Scotland.
“Having (a full Scottish breakfast), it's something that's kind of like a novelty for me now because I'm not here very much,” said Laird, who played college golf at Colorado State. “These trousers, were a little tight this morning, but I definitely put on a little bit of weight over these two weeks enjoying all the food I don't get when I'm in America.
“It's just good to be back here, hear lots of Scottish voices and … people shouting for me and rooting me on which is something I don't hear as much in America.”
Laird, No. 59 in the Official World Golf Ranking, got into the British Open off his position in the OWGR, which is used to fill the 156-player field if there are open slots after all exemptions and qualifying spots have been handed out. He’s the second-highest-ranked Scot in the world; Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion, is No. 49.
Laird is No. 27 in the FedExCup standings after winning this year’s Valero Texas Open, his third PGA TOUR victory and first since the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I needed that win,” Laird said of the Texas Open. “My season was definitely not going the right direction until San Antonio. You know, it's funny how one week like that can turn it all around.”
That one week helped him extend his stay in his homeland for another week. He was 117th in the OWGR the week before winning in Texas. Now he’s back at the British Open and in contention to make The TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola for the first time since 2010.
“(I’m) probably hitting the ball as good as I have in a long time, consistently, but not making a lot of putts the last few weeks,” he said. “Putting has been feeling fine but just not seeing the ball go in the hole. Hopefully this week is different.”
And next week, as well.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Martin Laird is no stranger to final-round charges at THE PLAYERS Championship, and Sunday was no exception.
For the second straight year, Laird closed with a 67 to vault from a tie for 18th into contention. He trailed by six at the start of the day and was three strokes off the lead before he made his only bogey of the day at the 18th hole to finish at 10 under.
A year ago, Laird tied for second, two strokes behind Matt Kuchar. He said he thought the conditions were more difficult this year.
"The wind is a lot stronger and we got some trickier pins today on Sunday, and as you'd expect the greens are faster and firmer, definitely the speed," he said. "They may not be firmer than yesterday, but they're definitely faster. So you get on the wrong side of the hole, and it's tough to lag it down there as opposed to other days you can maybe have a run at it.
"It's just Sunday at THE PLAYERS. It's tough. That's one of the best rounds I've played all year and one of the best rounds I've played in a while. I think I probably played better today than I did last year when I shot 5 under in the final round. I think it was playing a little tougher today."
Laird also came from behind to win his third PGA TOUR event earlier this year. Trailing Billy Horschel by five strokes starting the final round of the valero Texas Open, Laird fired a course-record-tying 63 to beat Rory McIlroy by two.
So even though he faced a serious deficit, the 30-year-old knew he could make up some ground.
"I went in today actually confident, it sounds silly, but giving the leaders a push," Laird said. "... It kind of sounds weird to say when I was five back I was not confident of winning, but I knew I could get in contention. I had to get off to a good start, and did I that. Once I started that, I wanted to keep going, and as I said, I played really well."
Billy Horschel kept to his game plan by hitting driver on tight holes at TPC San Antonio. (Dykes/Getty Images)
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
It was an exciting week in the Lone Star State, as a strong field assembled at The TPC San Antonio. Chilly temperatures defined Thursday’s play, and a blustery wind made scoring tough over the second and third rounds. Sunday, however, was a different proposition entirely, and near-perfect conditions made the tough Greg Norman design a lot more getable.
Third-round leader Billy Horschel built a three stroke lead early, but Scotsman Martin Laird was not going to go down without a shootout. He fired a course record 63, the lowest round of the week (by three strokes) to overtake the pack for the victory.
I was fortunate to get a ringside seat for Horschel’s play, as I had the call for Sirius/XM PGA TOUR Radio. I thus have a lesson we can learn from him, but Martin Laird’s phenomenal performance in the final round also holds a scoring lesson for us:
Billy Horschel: Horschel was solid throughout the week, but a statistic that defined his performance and something that is key to competitive success was his bounce-back ability. Through 54 holes, Horschel had made seven bogeys, but he managed to bounce back from those with five immediate birdies.
Rebounding from a mistake is imperative if you want to make consistently good scores and there are a few keys to improving your ability to do so:
Have fun despite an error: Horschel told me that he made an effort to enjoy his play no matter what was going on, and I feel like that approach allowed him to stay loose all of the time. That lack of tension thanks to the easy-going approach is imperative to your swing and your putting stroke working as they should.
Go with your money club as often as possible: Billy admitted that he will hit his driver no matter the circumstance, and he stayed true to that approach despite some gusty winds and tight fairways. There is an object lesson in that approach. Just as Horschel did, look for every opportunity to go with your go-to shot and your money club as often as you can. Confidence breeds success, so why not go with a shot (and a club) that you are confident in whenever you can?
Martin Laird: Honestly, Laird’s final round was not something I thought possible considering the difficulty of the golf course. But he got on an early run and then kept the momentum up and closed well for a 63. To me, the key to his record round was not only the fast start he got, it was also his quick three-birdie finish.
Finish strong: In every sports contest, the spoils normally go to the person or the team that closes with a flourish. Certainly, Laird got himself into contention with a great front nine, but his three closing birdies won the event for him. So like Laird, aim to play your final three holes in anything under par, and I promise you that you will move up the leaderboard more often than not.
To that point, whatever your level of play – around par, bogey or perhaps even worse – strive for a strong finish and you will see your results improve. One of many keys to closing well is to stay in the proverbial present on every shot. Make every effort to pull your attentions back to the shot at hand. Those final three holes deserve your undivided attention, so make it a goal to intensify your focus, your decision-making and your visualization on each shot.
Watch the pros, and you will see that happen without fail.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.
Laird took only 22 putts in his final round at TPC San Antonio (Dykes/Getty Images)
By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Martin Laird won the Valero Texas Open with his putter. He needed only 22 putts in the final round to tie the course record with a blistering 63 at the TPC San Antonio.
If you watched Laird during this week, you would notice a key component in his pre-putting routine. As he looked at the hole, he would simulate the movement of his stroke with his right hand. He is getting into what I call “the feel zone.”
You need to accomplish only two factors to make a putt-hit the correct line coupled with the correct speed. Of course, those two factors are very difficult to get matched up, but when you do, you will see yourself sinking one putt after another.
The problem with most amateurs is that they focus primarily on line. They first figure how the ball will break. Next, amateurs will take a couple of practice strokes with the desired technique. Then make their stroke so that the ball roles on the chosen line.
Does this sound like your pre-putting routine?
The problem with your putting could be that you get stuck in the analytical mode. To putt your best, you will need to let go of being “too line oriented” and get into the feel zone like Martin Laird did this past week.
Here are 3 steps in your pre-putting routine to help you get into the feel zone:
Step 1. Pick up the ball and pretend to roll it. Although Martin Laird simulated the roll with his right hand, even better is to place the golf ball in your right hand and pretend to roll it toward the target. The weight of the ball helps you to gain better feel.
Step 2. Visualize the break. Visualize how the ball will break from the start position to when it enters the hole. But don’t just visualize the arc of the line, also imagine the actual speed of the putt. The greater your visualization process, the better feel you will have.
Step 3. Take practice strokes for feel only. Your only goal of the practice stroke is to feel the speed so it can take the intended line. Make a few practice strokes until you gain that desired feel.
Let’s be honest, getting your ball close to the hole is not that difficult, however, sinking putts is one of the toughest parts of the game. It gets a little easier when you get into the feel zone.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf. He is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. Dr. Gregg is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players. You can see more about him at www.drgreggsteinberg.com, and you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org for any comments or questions about your mental game.
The winner of the Valero Teas Open is headed to the Masters, only it wasn't the player anyone perhaps expected.
Martin Laird shot a sizzling 9-under 63 Sunday, birdieing his final three holes, to win at TPC San Antonio. The victory is his first in two years and will send the Scot to Augusta National.
In eight starts this season, Laird missed the cut in half of them. In the other half, his best finish was a tie for 34th.
Sunday, however, Laird made nine birdies and no bogeys on a difficult TPC San Antonio course that annually ranks among the toughest on the PGA TOUR.
It is the 11th time a player has won the week before the year's first major to get into the field at the Masters. It also helped keep a streak of major appearances alive for the 30-year-old, who will be playing in his 11th straight major.
The win by Laird also ends a streak of U.S. dominance this season. American players had won the first 14 events of the season.
Rory McIlroy, who added the tournament to his schedule at the last minute in order to get more competitive rounds under his belt, finished second two strokes back after a 66.
It was McIlroy's best result on TOUR since winning last year's BMW Championship.
Billy Horschel, who began the day with a two-shot lead and was bidding for his first Masters appearance, tied for third after a 71 along with Charley Hoffman and Jim Furyk.
Martin Laird carded a course-record-tying 63 Sunday at TPC San Antonio to rally and win the Valero Texas Open for his third PGA TOUR victory and first since the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.
The victory moves Laird inside the top 20 in the latest FedExCup standings and securs the Scot a bid in next week's Masters.
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