LAS VEGAS – They say luck’s a fortune in Las Vegas but skill can certainly get you further.
Martin Laird showcased a brilliant combination of both as he claimed his second Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, outlasting Matthew Wolff and Austin Cook in a playoff at TPC Summerlin.
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Playing on a sponsor’s exemption as he returns from knee surgery, the Scotsman earned his fourth PGA TOUR win by getting the ultimate redemption on a hole that perhaps owed him some luck. It was his first title in over seven years.
Chasing back-to-back wins after winning in 2009 (ironically in a three-man playoff), Laird joined Cameron Percy and Jonathan Byrd in extra holes in 2010. When they reached the par-3 17th he had to just stand in disbelief when Byrd made a hole-in-one to win the tournament.
A decade later he would face the hole in sudden death against two others again. This time there was no ace but Laird did send a 22-foot, 11-inch birdie putt home after the other two players had missed their own chances to claim the win.
“When I sit back and think about it, this win might go right to the top just because it’s been a while,” Laird said. “I had a bunch of life changes since my last win. Now I’ve got a couple kids who kept asking me when I was going to win the trophy. It’s going to be nice to take a trophy home for them this time.”
“I’m unbelievably excited to have pulled that off today… you have some doubts at times whether you’re going to get another one. I just played so well all week this week tee to green; was probably the best I ever played. Just felt in control really all week. To see that putt go in on that hole, it was pretty special.”
His winning putt wasn’t the only drama he faced on the infamous hole on Sunday. He came to it in regulation with a one shot lead but flailed his tee shot on the breeze and it went miles right onto a hill normally reserved for spectators. It left a tricky pitch from a downslope, over a cart path, through trees with water behind the green.
The 37-year-old pulled off a magnificent shot to find the putting surface and then buried a 17-foot, 11-inch par putt. It was the longest putt he made all day Sunday (in regulation) and provided a buffer he needed when he was unable to get up and down on the 72nd hole for the win and was sent to extras.
“That hole owed me one,” Laird admitted. “To make that putt on 17 honestly was huge in regulation, and then to roll that putt in there to close it out, I mean, obviously it’s pretty special.”
Unbelievably it might not have been his best shot of the day. Earlier Laird was looking to push his early advantage on the par-5 9th hole, going for the green in two. His ball sailed on a great line only to come up fractions short, cannoning into the upper lip of a bunker where it stayed, seemingly buried and dead.
But with an awkward stance and the putrid lie to deal with Laird would not only extricate the ball exceptionally, he would hole out the shot for an eagle. It was the third straight day he’d eagled the hole.
Source: PGA tour