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 email@example.com 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.
Want to congratulate Laird on his victory? Leave a message for him in our comments section below and we'll get it to him.
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here .
2013 PREVIEW: Martin Laird has quietly established himself as one of the TOUR's best young players with two wins and five runner-up finishes in the last four years, two of which came in 2012. If he can improve his final-round scoring average -- Laird ranked 129th on TOUR in 2012 -- more trophies may come his way.
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: In four starts at THE PLAYERS, Laird had never shot in the 60s, until 2012, that is. He opened with a 65 and shared the first-round lead with Ian Poulter and then went on to tie for second. –- Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: Martin put a lot of effort and emotion into making the Ryder Cup team and when that did not happen, I wonder if it affected his season. Nobody on TOUR has reworked their game more than Laird. He came to the United States hitting low draws and now hits high cuts. -- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: Bit of a confounding yet still valuable own. Settled for a career-low 22 starts on the PGA TOUR after making a run at a spot in the Ryder Cup, yet added only two starts in Europe before the biennial competition (for which he didn't qualify anyway). Logged the last of his three top 10s way back at THE PLAYERS (a co-runner-up), thus beginning a trend that he's a front-half performer. (He posted the last of six top 10s in 2011 in May as well). In a sense, it's not a stretch that he merely coasted his way to another season comfortably north of $2 million. He turns 30 on Dec. 29, so his best years are still ahead. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
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2012 QUICK REVIEW
|Regular Season ranking
|Final Playoffs ranking
|Best finishes||2nd||Hyundai Tournament of Champions THE PLAYERS Championship (T2)|
|By the Numbers
Cuts made: 17
Rounds played: 73
Top-10 finishes: 3
Money List rank: 36th
Driving distance: 28th
Driving accuracy: 129th
Greens in regulation: 89th
Strokes gained-putting: 79th
Scoring average: 110th
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
What is your prediction for Martin Laird in 2013? Fill out the form below and let us know.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods is retaking his place at the top of the golf pantheon. His win on Sunday at the AT&T National – his third in seven starts -- gave him a PGA TOUR-leading three wins on the season, the FedExCup points lead and solo second place on the all-time TOUR victory list.
Where is it all coming from? The added “reps”, as Woods frequently cites? The work with swing coach Sean Foley? The weather? (Tiger’s an especially strong player in the heat.)
The answer may be simpler than that. He’s simply rolling the ball better.
Woods was ninth at Congressional in Strokes Gained-Putting with his Nike Method 001 putter, picking up nearly a shot and a half on the greens for the week. He’s now 14th in Strokes Gained-Putting for the year and 11th in Total Putting, a stat that combines putting averages from various distances.
“I feel like I really controlled the putter well this week,” Woods said. “I had a lot of good putts, and I had a lot of -- for some reason I had a lot of putts that were downhill, big, breaking putts. I hit a lot of good putts this week.”
The Method putter features Nike’s polymetal groove technology, which gets the ball rolling with forward spin more quickly after impact.
Woods wasn’t the only one with a big week at AT&T with a Method 001. Jhonattan Vegas finished T4, his best of the season.
D2 DEBUTS: Titleist unveiled its new 913 drivers for pros at AT&T, and 14 of the 34 players who teed up Titleist drivers in competition used the new models.
Seung-Yul Noh, using a 7.5-degree 913D3, finished highest with a T4, while Nick Watney finished 10th with a 10.5-degree 913D3. Brendon de Jonge, the 54-hole leader at Congressional, ended tied for 11th with his 9.5-degree 913 D3.
The newest members of Titleist’s 900 family (“9” is the designation for metalwoods and “13” is the model year) feature some cosmetic differences and a weight cartridge at the rear of the clubhead. Like the previous 910 models, Titleist’s SureFit Tour hosel helps a player dial in the ideal lie and loft.
There are two models, the D2 and D3, with the D2 having a slightly bigger head. Of the 14 pros at AT&T, 11 played the D3 and three (Bud Cauley, Tom Gillis and John Merrick) chose the D2.
Rory McIlroy put an 8.5-degree 913D3 at the Irish Open, finishing in a tie for 10th.
BEER!: For those of you who consider beer as essential “equipment” for your weekend rounds, there’s a new brew inspired by Sam Snead.
Slammin’ Sam is a craft-brewed American lager developed off a proprietary recipe and made in Wisconsin by Stevens Point Brewery. It debuts this week at The Greenbrier Resort, which is hosting the PGA TOUR’s Greenbrier Classic.
“It makes sense for Slammin’ Sam beer to be introduced here,” said Jeff Kmiec, president and managing director of The Greenbrier Resort. “Sam Snead called The Greenbrier his professional home for more than 60 years and I think he’d be happy to know guests will savor a beer that bears his nickname.”
The beer’s packaging features famous images of Snead and is available in cans, bottles and kegs. The company plans to launch the product soon at other golf resorts around North America.
For more information, check out a fun Q&A with the founder of Slammin’ Sam here.
LOOKING AT LYTHAM: Justin Rose and Justin Leonard had new hybrids built in the TaylorMade truck at Congressional, purposely for the British Open later this month. Rose got a 16-degree Rescue 11, designed for him to hit piercing shots in the wind. Leonard got two 17-degree Rescue 11s and compared the two during practice rounds at Congressional.
BITS: Martin Laird put a new TaylorMade Ghost Spider IB belly putter in play at Congressional, replacing his longtime Ghost Tour DA-12 belly model. He finished T11. … John Mallinger also finished T11 at AT&T, playing a new set of TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC irons. He’s moving away from an older model of TP irons which had “pretty dead” grooves, in his words. … Kevin Stadler had never played a 5-wood but tested a Callaway Razr Fit model and liked how it fit a gap between his 3-wood and hybrid. He tested it, found that he could hit his standard high cut with it, and put it in play at AT&T.
WINNER’S BAG: Woods at the AT&T
Driver: Nike VR Tour (8.5 degree, Graphite Design DI 6X shaft)
Fairway wood: Nike VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood (15 degrees); Nike SQ II 5-wood (19 degrees)
Irons: Nike VR Pro Blades (3-PW)
Wedges: Nike VR Pro (56, 60 degrees)
Putter: Nike Method 001
Ball: Nike ONE Tour D
Following his second-round 73, Martin Laird meets with the media and talks about mistakes he made on his incoming holes.
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.com
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Martin Laird had the look of a champion after he signed his scorecard at THE PLAYERS Championship Friday afternoon. He was walking confidently. He was in control. And more important, Laird talked like he had already forgotten his last three holes.
Laird, who led for most of the morning in the second round, reached 10 under after a birdie on the 15 thhole at TPC Sawgrass. But instead of taking it deeper into the red, Laird finished bogey-double bogey-bogey for a 1-over 73 that dropped him down the leaderboard with a two-day total of 6-under 138.
He wasn’t concerned at all.
“If there’s ever a day you want to do that, it’s Thursday or Friday and not Sunday,” Laird said. “I’ve just got to take out of it that I just played the last three in 4-over par. I’m obviously playing some pretty good golf leading up to that.”
After a solid start to the season, Laird’s play admittedly cooled off. He advanced to the quarterfinals of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, but he missed two of his next five cuts. So he decided to part ways with his longtime caddie and put his friend Shay Knight on the bag.
“It was time for a change, time to freshen up a little bit,” said Laird, who has also been working to improve his putting with Dave Stockton Jr. “Just trying to have more fun out there.”
Laird was having a lot fun Friday, especially before his round turned sour with a mental mistake on the 523-yard par-5 16 th hole. Instead of playing it safe, Laird, his confidence as high as the blue sky, got “a little greedy there” with a 4-iron and his shot found the water. He made bogey.
On the par-3 17
th, Laird’s 9-iron landed short of the island
green and in the hazard again. He made an 11-foot putt for a
“Yeah, that was a big one,” said Laird, whose best finish at THE PLAYERS in three previous starts is a tie for 69 th place last year. “You don’t want to make a 6 there. … It’s one that I was obviously very happy to see go in.”
Laird went on to bogey the 18 thafter failing to get up-and-down from just off the green. Still, Laird’s confidence remained high.
“You don’t lose that in the space of three holes,” Laird said. “So I’ll be fine [Saturday].”