MARTIN Laird has been handed an unexpected chance to get his first Ryder Cup points on the board in this week’s World Cup of Golf in Australia.
The three-times PGA Tour winner had thought he would have to wait until 1 January to take up membership of the European Tour and, therefore, be eligible for next year’s match at Gleneagles.
However, Laird will launch his bid to play catch-up in the battle for spots on Paul McGinley’s side when he partners Stephen Gallacher in the Scotland side competing in an $8 million event starting at Royal Melbourne tomorrow.
“I already have joined,” he told The Scotsman when asked if it was still his intention to enter the Ryder Cup race four months after the gun went off in Wales. “I sent it in last week as I have been told by the European Tour that points this week can count.”
With $7m up for grabs in the individual event, it means Laird has an excellent chance of getting his campaign off to a flying start and the 30-year-old has given up a search for perfection in a bid to rediscover his best form. “Looking back on 2013, I can’t call it a bad year as I had a win [in the Texas Open] and good finishes at the Players [fifth] and the Scottish Open [also fifth], both huge tournaments for me,” he said.
“However, apart from that I really didn’t play very well. I tried making a few swing tweaks to become a more complete player and they didn’t really pan out the way I had hoped. I had some of my best ball-striking in spells, but it just wasn’t consistent enough.
“So I have gone back to swinging it more the way I used to, hitting cuts nearly every shot. That’s how I have played my most consistent golf in the past. I have been playing great in practice at home so hopefully that transfers over to this week.”
Two years ago, at Mission Hills in China, Laird and Gallacher joined forces to finish joint-fourth behind American pair Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland. Kuchar, the world No 7, is back to defend the title but has a new partner, Kevin Streelman, on this occasion.
“I’m really looking forward to this week,” said Laird. “It’s always great to represent Scotland and hopefully me and Stevie can go a few spots better than last time out. We get on really well so maybe we can motivate each other to play some good golf, even though it isn’t as much a team competition now as it used to be with the change in format.
“I have had three weeks off since the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia and am excited to get out there and get started.
“I have only played in Australia once before – seven years ago on the Nationwide Tour. I have only heard great things about Royal Melbourne and hopefully playing golf similar to links courses can bring a wee advantage for us.”
Australia, represented by Masters champion Adam Scott and world No 18 Jason Day, are the title favourites, while dark horses include Danish duo Thomas Bjorn and Thorbjorn Olesen.