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].”
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- A couple of notes about co-leaders Ian Poulter and Martin Laird to set up today’s second round:
-- Poulter had not held a first-round lead/co-lead on TOUR in 139 previous starts.
-- Poulter has made all six of his cuts on TOUR this season. Both of his top-10 finishes this season have come in his last two starts (he finished third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard and seventh at the Masters).
-- Poulter is making his ninth start at THE PLAYERS this week. His best finish is a runner-up in 2009. Only twice -- in 2010 and 2005 -- has he missed the cut.
-- Poulter’s previous low round at THE PLAYERS was a 67 in the first round in 2009.
-- Poulter’s round Thursday? It was his 450th on TOUR.
-- This is Laird’s third career first-round lead/co-lead on TOUR.
-- The two other times he held or shared the lead after the first round -- at the 2008 Wyndham Championship and 2011 Northern Trust Open -- he went on to finish fourth and first, respectively.
-- Laird is looking to join Sandy Lyle (1987) as the only players from Scotland to win THE PLAYERS.
-- Laird is making his fourth start at TPC Sawgrass (he tied for 71st in 2009, missed the cut in 2010 and tied for 69th in 2011).
-- Laird’s 65 was his first round in the 60s in nine previous rounds at THE PLAYERS, and it was the only bogey-free round of the day.
Following his opening-round 65, Martin Laird reflects on his play with Fred Albers from SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- A new caddy and renewed confidence in his putter helped lift Martin Laird into a share of the lead after the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship.
Laird was the only player to traverse the Stadium Course without a bogey on Thursday. The 65 he ended up shooting left the Scotsman tied with Ian Poulter, one stroke ahead of Blake Adams and two up on Kevin Na and Ben Crane.
"Obviously very happy with my round today," said Laird, who had never broken 70 in nine previous rounds at the Stadium Course and never finished higher than a tie for 69th in three starts there. "Going bogey free anywhere is good, but around this golf course it feels extremely satisfying."
Laird, who came into the week ranked 119th in strokes-gained putting, took just 12 putts on each side on Thursday, too, which left him tied for fourth in that statistical category. He's been working on his putting with Dave Stockton Jr. and the effort he's put in paid dividends in the first round.
"The whole thing they work with is trying not to care on your putts," Laird said. "I consciously have been doing that the last couple weeks, not trying to try too hard because I know I haven't putted well here before -- just have a quick look, see what you think the line is and let it go. Don't study it too much and don't think about it too much."
Laird says he's also benefitted from having a new caddy on his bag, a good friend from Australia named Shay Knight, who used to work for Laird's buddy, Matt Jones. The two started working together last week at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, where both now make their home and Laird tied for 26th.
"We've been friends for years, and I have him now on the bag, and it was kind of nice to be out on the course and be able to chat away to someone that's my age and is like a friend as opposed to a caddie," Laird said. "Not saying my old caddie and I weren't friends, it's just a little different when it's someone you've been friends with anyway. And he think that's definitely helped keep me a little more relaxed on the golf course, and it feeds through all parts of your game down to your putting."
According to course superintendent Matt Beaver, the rough is expected to top out at 3-1/2 inches this week, with the thick turf remaining the course’s biggest weapon.
"You hit the ball in the rough, and it makes it pretty tough," Beaver said.
But that fact shouldn't deter the big hitters this week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. In year's past, the big hitters have thrived: the recent winner's list includes Martin Laird, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Kenny Perry and Phil Mickelson. Not exactly a bunch of Corey Pavins.
How do the big hitters do so well at Bay Hill? Real simple. They tend to eat up Bay Hill's four par-5s, and with scoring at a premium (8 under won last year), birdies on par-5s are even more valuable.
No one was better on the par-5s last year than Laird, who led the field with 18 birdies on the way to victory last year. He made 10 birdies (plus an eagle) on the par-5s, and won by a single shot.
Laird's 12 under par on the par-5s was nine shots better than the field average of 3 under, and he was the only player (besides Bubba Watson) to go for every par-5 in two.
Here's how Laird won last year at Bay Hill:
|Stat||Laird rank||Laird stat||Field average|
|Greens in Regulation||T20th||68.06 percent||61.88 percent|
|Going for the green (Par-5s)||T1||100 percent||45.90 percent|
|Strokes Gained - Putting||26th||.687||N/A|
|Putting from - 10-15'||5th||55.56 percent||27.81 percent|
|Par 5 Birdie or Better Pct||1st||68.75 percent||36.78 percent|
The defending champion meets the media on Tuesday at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ORLANDO -- The handshake and the words of congratulations from Arnold Palmer are a bit of a blur now.
"Never even shook his hand before and all of a sudden he's there awarding me the trophy for winning his tournament," Martin Laird marveled on Tuesday, some 360 days later.
Laird does remember telling Palmer that Bay Hill was very challenging in the final round, though. "He kind of smiled and said, 'That's the way like it,'" reported the Scotsman, who hung on for the victory despite closing with a 75.
Laird took a two-stroke lead into the final round that Sunday but played his first 11 holes in 5 over to trail by three strokes. Birdies on the 15th and 16th holes gave him an advantage he would not relinquish -- but the win was not assured until Laird got up and down for par at the 17th and two-putted from 87 feet for another at the 18th hole.
Laird, who came to the United States to play golf at Colorado State and now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., has enjoyed getting reacquainted with Bay Hill this week. Well, maybe not with the 11th hole, where he hit his second shot from the fairway bunker into the water on the way to a double bogey that career-defining Sunday -- but the last four holes were clutch.
"I could probably tell you exactly where I hit it on every hole for that last round," Laird said. "But the last four, I really remember, I think it's because I tried to block out the first ten or 11 holes which weren't so good. …
"I really didn't hit a bad shot the last four holes, and birdied two of them. The way the course was set up ... it's almost more satisfying winning that way rather than playing great and cruising around and winning by two or three.
"It's a little nicer to know I can dig it out when I didn't have my game."
Laird's 2012 campaign has been something of a mixed bag.
He missed the cut last week at the Transitions Championship but started the year with a solo second at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions after closing with a 67. He also tied for fifth at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, losing to Lee Westwood in the quarterfinals.
The 29-year-old is hoping the weekend off – not to mention, the good memories at Bay Hill -- will help him regain some momentum.
"I feel like it helped me a little this week, having a couple of days away from golf, just kind of relaxing,” Laird said. “Put in a lot of hard work yesterday … and (I’m) feeling like my game is coming back around really nicely."
All interviews will be streamed live on PGATOUR.COM.
Wednesday, March 21
Arnold Palmer, 10 a.m. ET
Justin Rose, after pro-am
Ryo Ishikawa, 11:30 a.m. ET
MARANA, Ariz. -- Martin Laird was 16 years old when Paul Lawrie came from 10 shots off the pace to beat Jean van de Velde and win the British Open in 1999.
Shortly afterwards Lawrie gave a clinic and held a Q&A session for the Scottish National team. Lawrie's friend Adam Hunter was the coach and a teenage Laird was a member of the team.
In an interesting twist of fate, on Friday, more than a decade later, Lawrie and Laird will meet in the third round of the Accenture Match Play Championship. Their match tees off at 1:26 p.m. ET.
"I remember looking up to him then thinking this is where I want to go," recalled Laird, who ended up going to college at Colorado State and settling in Scottsdale, Ariz. "I want to be holding the trophy like he is. And it's kind of funny now I'm playing him tomorrow right here in Arizona."
Lawrie has played some practice rounds with Laird, who won his first PGA TOUR event last year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. But he doesn't remember his fellow Scot from among the three dozen or so eager youngsters he met with way back in 1999.
"He mentioned that to me when we played nine holes a couple of years ago," Lawrie said."... Adam had asked me to come along and chat with the boys. I don't remember Martin. There was obviously about 30 boys there, but he did tell me the story. I'm a bit older than him, obviously."
The 43-year-old veteran hasn't played in the Accenture Match Play Championship since 2003. He enters the World Golf Championships event ranked 45th in the world and is playing extremely well with a win in Qatar and two other top-10s in four starts this season
"I'm looking forward to it," Lawrie said. "Obviously Martin has been playing good, and he's ahead of me in the world ranking (at No. 40), so he's the favorite. I'm looking forward to it. It should be good."
The 29-year-old Laird agreed.
"I like this golf course," he said. "I feel very comfortable
with desert golf. I was disappointed last year, I played well
and got beat by a better player on the day. So I've been
looking forward to getting back here this year.
"I played well the first two rounds, and I had to. It doesn't really matter who you've got, when you've got the top 64 players in the world you've got to play good to win. My game is looking good and I'm looking forward to the rest of the week."