Valero Texas Open interview: Martin Laird

April 07, 2013

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We'd like to welcome our 2013 Valero Texas Open Champion, Martin Laird. Martin, if you could, talk about what it feels like to be a champion of this great tournament?

MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, it's pretty special to be sitting here beside this trophy. I know it's a famous tournament, and to come here and play the way I did today and have my name on it besides all these other great names, it means a lot.

Q. You talk about the great names, obviously, Rory was right there. What is your feeling now winning this with a player like Rory right behind you pushing?

Yeah, to be honest, I know how good Rory is, but it doesn't matter if it's Rory or Jim or Billy, if someone's behind me making birdies like they were, I know I've got to keep making birdies. That was a pretty strong leaderboard at the top there.

I tried to stay aggressive all day. Coming in this week, my caddy and I talked about that after last week. I played my best golf when I play aggressive, and I just tried to play that way all the way through the 18th hole today and not change my game plan and it paid off.

Q. You finished second at THE PLAYERS last year and since then not a whole lost success. What do you think got away from your game that you were doing so well?

I started struggling with my ball striking last year. I made a coaching change at the end of the year in September. It's taken a few months for me to get used to some of the changes. It's been one of those things that I've been playing good in practice and hitting the ball on the range. I've just not been playing good in the tournaments.

The biggest thing this year is I just putted terrible. All the struggle on the west coast putting on the Poa annua greens and it really killed my confidence this year. I came away from there wondering if what I was doing was right and things like that. Changing putters and things like that.

This week, I went back to my old faithful putter that I won Bay Hill with a few years ago and probably had my best putting spell with. Now I'm wondering why I ever stopped using it.
But that was kind of automatic comfort with that putter on these greens.

Q. It's interesting. You talk about the putting on those lines. A 15 foot putt on the last hole, of course, you had the 16 footer on the first cut on 17 and an 18 footer on 16. Have you ever had a three hole stretch there, under pressure, where you putted that well in those kind of situations?

Not to finish a tournament like I did. But as I said, when I won Bay Hill, I made a really good putt on 15 and 16, and then holed a couple of nice putts in the last two holes there to win. Today was kind of like that week. For some reason I could see all the lines. The putter felt great. I had the speed of the greens.

You know, it's the three putting that's been killing me all year. Bay Hill this year, in Tampa, I had eight three putts in both of those tournaments and you can't compete out here with that. This week, I think I had two, which is a nice improvement.

But a lot of it goes down to these greens, too. The course is in immaculate condition. The greens are absolutely perfect. If you hit a good putt, there is a good chance it's going to go in, and that obviously helps the confidence.

Q. At what point did you start thinking about what this win means both in terms of your career and next week?

I've not had time to think about that. I'm obviously excited about winning this tournament, first and foremost. All the other things that come with it are obviously great, but having this trophy beside me is the number one thing. I get to add another win to my career on the PGA TOUR which is obviously very special, and being at The Masters next week is obviously going to be great. But having this trophy here is the big thing.

Q. You said you wonder why you ever switched from the putter. But what was the inspiration to put it back in the bag this week? Was there a story behind that?

Just the other ones weren't working either. I mean, it really is as simple as that. I kind of decided last week after the first round that I was probably going to use this other one this week and kind of go back to it. And I got over here Sunday, and got some good practice in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday with it, and felt a lot more comfortable with that.

I felt like I could see. It sounds simple. But I know where it's lined up easier. It's kind of a comfort thing. I'm confident with where I'm aiming with it as opposed to some of the other ones where I was kind of second guessing.

But, as I said, these greens were perfect. So I knew if I got a little hot today, I could maybe make some and I got very hot with the putter.

Q. Did you have a number in mind?

I did not have a number. I don't like putting numbers up there, because when you get to that number, sometimes you hit the brakes. I knew I had to play well, but I wasn't out there thinking I have to shoot 5 under to win or 6 under to win, because if I get to 6 under through 12 holes, you're kind of like I'm there. I just knew I had to play well. Trying not to look at leaderboards too much, but I obviously kept my eye on it a little bit, and knew the guys behind me were playing well also and I had to keep pushing.

15 was a big break for me see, 14 was a big break for me when I hit it right in the par 5. That there probably kept my head in it a little. I'd have been pretty upset if I made bogey from the middle of the fairway on that hole.

Q. This course, you saw Thursday north wind, cold; Friday was very benign; then you get the south winds the last two days. You've seen just about every condition out here on this course. What do you take away, obviously strange to ask you this because you shot 63 today, but what do you take away from the 18th tee Oaks course that's gotten a reputation of being very penal out there?

Thursday especially, I teed off early on Thursday, and it was cold. That north wind on this golf course, it's brittle in that north wind. I played really well Thursday morning to shoot 2 under. I it was probably one of the better ball striking rounds I've ever had on Thursday. I putted decent, but to get around here in 2 under was good to put that north wind.

The course plays a little easier with the wind we've had the last couple days, but it's still a tough test. It's a tough start on 1. I hit a good tee shot on 1 today, and that kind of helped settle the nerves a little bit. And I knew I had been hitting great the first two rounds and it's nice to hit good tee shots the first two holes into the wind and get through the tough holes.

I got through the first three holes which are a tough start at 2 under, and I knew if I kept pushing, it could be a pretty special day.

Q. Can you elaborate a little bit more on the swing instructor change in September? Who the coaches were and who you're working with now and what you're working on to get you back on track?

My new coach is Randy Smith. He's based in Dallas. My old coach was Mark McCann, and I'd been with him for a few years, and we've had a great run. He's still a friend and he helped me out a lot, helped my career a lot.

I just thought I needed another look. It wasn't that he was doing anything wrong. I just wanted to have a different perspective and things. I had been struggling with the same shot. Kind of a high, spinning, miss right for a few months. Couldn't really get rid of it. I went to Randy, and right away we got rid of that shot, and a few other shots came in, which is what happens when you make some swing changes.

It's been frustrating. Just ask my wife how frustrating it's been. It's been a frustrating six or seven months since I made that change. I'll go to the range and practice and stripe it, and go to the course and hit it everywhere. That's kind of what happens with swing changes. It's finally starting to feel good.

But you know it's not really anything major. It was turning better off the ball was one of them. I used to have a habit to almost start the back swing with my hands and leave the club behind as kind of a drag, and I would extend the angle from my hands to my club head on the back swing, and I'd kind of drop it under and that's where the block came from.

So we've been working on turning better, strengthening my grip, and turning better off the ball to get rid of that spiny, high block right. And the way I hit it this week, I definitely got rid of it.

Q. After the way you putted today, I'm sure you have some expectations for next week. What are your expectations for The Masters?

Might be kind of a good thing I'm such a late entrance in terms of it's going to be a bonus week, because I'm not going to go there with expectations because I didn't think I was in the tournament to start the day. Obviously, the way I'm playing, if I'm playing the way I did this week, I don't see why I can't be right there on Sunday and be in contention.

Couple years ago was my first Masters. I played well there the first time around. Last year, I didn't play as well. So I'm hoping next year I get back. I absolutely love the golf course. It's definitely a special place. I'm excited to get to be there tomorrow.

Q. After that first round at Houston last week, what specifically were you working on on the range and what did you find that night?

It was a posture thing. I was a little far from the ball and my upper body was a little too bent over. I didn't have any room. I kept feeling like I was stuck and didn't have any room to get my arms down in front of me. So we went down to the back of the range there and got myself standing a little closer to it and a little taller.

I was probably hitting half my shots last week a little thin and on the heel. I got a little taller and little closer to the ball, and right away started hitting the ball right in the middle of the club face again. It was kind of nice. I probably was back there for four hours hitting balls on Thursday.

I went out Friday and played my last seven holes at 5 under on Friday to miss the cut by one. I had a nice run coming into this tournament, and I took a lot from playing aggressive those last seven holes last week and the way I hit the ball and some of the putts I made.

Came in here quietly confident, even though my record this year has been poor to say the least. But golf's a funny game. Doesn't matter what you did two weeks ago. Turns around pretty quickly.

Q. What do you think of the city of San Antonio?

I love it here. I had a great time two years ago when I came and stayed at the JW and before when the tournament was at the previous course. It's a very welcoming place. The crowds this week have been fantastic. As I said, everyone makes you feel like you're at home.

It's kind of weird because everyone thanks you for coming here to play the tournament. It should be another way, thanking the volunteers for being out there, but they're thanking us for coming. They've got it backwards. It should be us thanking them. You don't get that every week where people are thanking you for coming to the tournament. So it's obviously a special place.