Twelve months ago, Laird was the sole Scot in the world’s top 64, meaning he carried the Saltire on his own in the $8.5 million tournament at Dove Mountain before doing likewise soon afterwards in the second WGC event of the season, the Cadillac Championship at Doral.
Now he’s been joined in the elite events by Lawrie after the former Open champion climbed into the top 50 – he’s 45th and Laird 40th – on the back of a recent purple patch on the European Tour that culminated in him winning the Qatar Masters for a second time. “It is great that I am not the only Scot in the field this week and hopefully there will be more of us in the near future,” said Laird of a recent resurgence by the Scottish contingent on the European Tour that has been led by Lawrie.
“It seems like nearly every week I turn on the European Tour golf there is a Scot lurking somewhere around the lead,” added the Glaswegian. “Paul, in particular, has been playing fantastic recently which is great to see. It was brilliant to see him get the win in Qatar again. It definitely was not a surprise to see him close out the tournament the way he did after his form the last few months, stretching back into the end of last year.
“Everyone knows how good a player he is and I am sure he is going to keep playing well and there can be two of us for now playing in all the WGC events and majors. It can only help Scottish golf, which already seems to be on a great path upwards with the lads in Europe playing good every week right now.”
Lawrie is making his first appearance in this particular WGC event since 2003, when he lost to his fellow former Open champion, Nick Price, in the opening round. Three years earlier, in the first of four consecutive appearances in the event, the Aberdonian fared much better.
Indeed, after beating Chris Perry, Billy Mayfair and Mark Calcavecchia, he took Tiger Woods, the world No 1 at the time, all the way to the 18th before losing their quarter-final at La Costa. Lawrie was two up at one point before Woods won three holes in a row to turn the match around. Lawrie’s opening opponent this time around is Englishman Justin Rose, the world No 23, while Laird, who suffered a first-round exit at the hands of Italy’s Edoardo Molinari a year ago, will be aiming to avoid the same fate today when he takes on Spaniard Alvaro Quiros.
“It’s nice to have such a big event that is a couple of hours’ drive from my house,” admitted Scottsdale-based Laird, who started his season by finishing second behind Steve Stricker in the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and is still sitting tenth in the FedEx Cup rankings despite missing the cut in his last two events. “I am really looking forward to this week and hope that I can survive a little longer this year than last. It’s always fun to play match play so when it is in such a big event like this it makes it a great week.
“I feel like the course really suits my game and I am comfortable playing on desert-style courses, so hopefully I can be down here well into the weekend. There is a certain apect of luck in the first couple rounds as you can play well and get beaten by someone that is hot that day. On the other hand, you can play average and be up against someone that is struggling.”