MARTIN Laird is relaxed about having to play catch-up in the race to be on next year’s Ryder Cup team despite the European captain, Paul McGinley, admitting the Scot will feel as though he is “behind the eight ball” in his bid to make the team for Gleneagles.
Having decided not to take out membership of the European Tour this year, three-time PGA Tour winner Laird will not be eligible to pick up points straight away when the qualifying race for McGinley’s team gets underway at the end of August. Instead, Laird will have to wait until 1 January, making his quest to take part in the first Ryder Cup to be held in Scotland for more than 40 years a momumental one, as the captain himself said at Wentworth a fortnight ago.
“He has chosen not to take out his membership on the European Tour and, unfortunately, there’s consequences for that,” said McGinley. “Those consequences are that the first four months in the qualifying race don’t count for him so he is starting behind the eight ball and he’s got to really start next year fast if he wants to make the team. But he knows that.
“I spoke to him at the TPC [at Sawgrass last month] and he’s very keen to make the team. But he’s realised he’s given himself a big uphill task by not taking up membership this year. He knows he’s going to have to play really well next year.”
Laird told The Scotsman his decision not to take up European Tour membership this season had been influnced by a slide down the world rankings, which he halted with victory in the Valero Texas Open the week before the Masters in early April.
“As of right now, I have not thought about the end of the year,” he said. “As I’m not a member of the European Tour at the moment, I will not be able to start collecting points until I join again next year. But it doesn’t worry me as it’s a situation I couldn’t avoid after slipping outside the top 50 in the world ranking. I couldn’t possibly have played both Tours.”
On the back of getting back into the top 60, Laird has secured a spot in next week’s US Open at Merion, where he will fly the Saltire along with Paul Lawrie and qualifier Chris Doak. For him to also line up in the Open Championship at Muirfield, however, he is either going to have to be sitting in the top 20 in the FedEx Cup after the Greenbrier Classic next month, win the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart the week before the Open or keep climbing the rankings between now and then and hope he gets in through a withdrawal.
He missed out on the spots up for grabs in the East Lothian field off last year’s PGA Tour by failing to be among the leading 30 qualifiers for the Tour Championship and also fell short at the International Final Qualifier in Texas a fortnight ago.