WORLD OF GOLF: Lazarus Laird hits the jackpot in Vegas again as Scot claims victory in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
- Martin Laird claimed his first PGA Tour title in more than seven years
- He came out on top in a play-off with Austin Cook and Matthew Wolff
- Ernie Els wins second PGA TOUR Champions title at SAS Championship
Asked to name the current Scot with more wins on the PGA Tour in America than either Paul Casey or Ian Poulter, and all but the golf cognoscenti would surely be flummoxed.
It was entirely appropriate, therefore, that while Bryson DeChambeau grabbed the headlines in Las Vegas on Sunday with talk of putting on yet more weight by the Masters next month, and unleashing a driver with a 48-inch shaft — three inches longer than the one he has — it was Martin Laird who stepped in to steal into the night with the trophy.
The 37-year-old Glaswegian’s affection for Sin City must rival that of any high roller. It was in Las Vegas in 2009 that he achieved his breakthrough victory while this triumph, his fourth on the PGA Tour but first for seven years, changes everything once more.
Martin Laird poses with the Shriner trophy after claiming victory in Las Vegas on Saturday
Indeed, before hitting the jackpot, it appeared as if Laird’s career had turned sour. All the form he had shown in winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2011 had disintegrated to the point where he was ranked 356th in the world.
Coming back from knee surgery, he was grateful simply to get a place in the field in Las Vegas after his pleading letter for a sponsor’s exemption was answered.
What a way to justify your place, as he beat the coming American Matt Wolff and Austin Cook in a play-off for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, holing a 20ft birdie putt at the second extra hole.
‘You have your doubts as to whether you ever will have another win,’ said an emotional Laird. ‘Since my last success I’ve struggled with my game at times, so when that putt went in, it was unbelievably exciting.
Laird holed a 22-foot birdie putt to claim his first PGA Tour title in more than seven years
‘When I sit back and think about it, this win might just go to the top of the pile because it’s been a while. There have been a bunch of life changes since my last win. Now I’ve got a couple of kids who kept asking me when I was going to win. They weren’t even born the last time it happened, so it feels pretty special to be taking a trophy home to show them.’
When you are reduced to asking sponsors for invitations, the value of a win goes way beyond the trophy and its first prize of £965,000. With a three-year exemption, Laird can now plan his schedule to suit himself until he is 40.
It has also earned him spots in the field at two majors, including a trip to the Masters next April for what will be his first appearance for eight years. ‘This victory opens quite a few doors for me and that trip to Augusta is obviously one of the nice perks,’ he said.
Away from the spotlight, Laird is back in the big-time, and back living the American Dream. The 18-year-old who signed up for a degree in marketing at Colorado University, sight unseen, now resides not far from the campus in Denver, with the Rockies as a backdrop, career earnings above £15m and a shiny new trophy to impress the kids. It is some dream.
Laird, left, bumps fists with Austin Cook after defeating him in the three-man play-off
Familiar sinking feeling for Monty
Colin Montgomerie must have felt a sense of deja vu on the Champions Tour in North Carolina on Sunday as he sought what would have been quite the Scottish double, following Martin Laird’s success in Las Vegas.
In the end he was denied a win by a familiar foe in Ernie Els, the man who pipped him to not one but two US Open titles in 1994 and 1997. Two weeks ago, the big South African, who has been plagued by putting problems for a decade and more, missed from two feet to lose a title at Pebble Beach. However, with Monty in his sights it was, as ever, a different story as he holed a 40ft birdie putt at the last for a one-stroke victory.
‘What a crazy game this is,’ reflected Els.
Funnily enough, no quotes from Monty were readily available.
Colin Montgomerie shows his frustration during Champions Tour in North Carolina on Sunday
The mighty Korean contingent might be somewhat depleted on the women’s circuit in America this year owing to the pandemic, but it has not prevented the celebrated ‘Seoul Sisters’ from resuming normal service.
After a major at Royal Troon in August with a victory for a German unknown in Sophia Popov, there was a Korean one-two at the LPGA Championship in Pennsylvania on Sunday to follow up countrywoman Mirim Lee’s success at the ANA Inspiration last month.
Kim Sei-young shot a stunning 63 for her first Grand Slam success and a five-stroke victory over seven-time major winner Inbee Park. Charley Hull was the best-placed Brit in a creditable seventh place.
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