January 7 2012
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Martin Laird grew up in Scotland, which means he grew up playing golf in the wind.
But Laird left Scotland 11 years ago to play college golf in the U.S. at Colorado State, and he's stayed over here ever since. So don't get the impression that the windy conditions at Kapalua left him feeling comfortable on Friday.
It was very good on Friday, though, especially in the final seven holes, as he produced five birdies to finish his round at 5-under 68. When he walked off the course, he had a share of the clubhouse lead with Michael Bradley, although defending champ Jonathan Byrd was still on the course at 6 under.
Laird said he and swing coach Mark McCann found something while working together at the Chevron World Challenge that allow him to play better in the wind. Instead of having a closed-face on his backswing, Laird now fans it open, allowing him to set his wrists earlier than before and giving him better control the club face.
"It's a strange feeling for me," said Laird, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard to earn entry in this week's field. "I've always been a shut-faced player. ... But it's been working, so it starts to feel good pretty quickly when the results are good."
The key for Laird's resurgence on the back nine, however, had more to do with his putting than his wind play. He said he started to leave himself longer uphill putts instead of shorter -- but trickier -- downhill putts.
"I didn't hit it any better on the back nine," Laird said. "It's just where I left myself -- below the hole more than having breaking putts."