February 24 2012
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."