Martin Laird is out to make amends for letting victory slip from his grasp in the same event two years ago after getting himself back into the final group in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
The 34-year-old bounced back from an early bogey in his third round at TPC Scottsdale to card a 65, leaving him lying second, just a shot behind Korea’s Ben An, in the battle for the title in front of golf’s biggest crowd.
“I played really nicely today,” said Laird, who is bidding to land his fourth PGA Tour victory but first since the 2013 Valero Texas Open. “Yesterday was a little bit of a struggle with my iron game, but I sorted out after I’d played and struck it really nicely out there.
“A bogey at the second hole wasn’t ideal, but I knew I was hitting it nicely and bounced back with four birdies in a row, which was pretty nice.”
Laird held a three-shot lead heading into the final round in this event two years ago. he was level with Brooks Koepka, the eventual winner, going into the penultimate hole before finishing bogey, double-bogey for a 75 to end up tied for fifth.
“I was right in the mix in 2015 and, though it looked as though I messed up, I didn’t feel as though I did too much wrong. It was just one bad shot,” he added.
“I like this golf course and feel comfortable on it, having lived five minutes down the road.
“I know that if I can go out and play the way I’ve played the last three days then I get be right there tomorrow.”
An, the 2015 BMW PGA champion, took advantage of some excellent approach play on the front nine to make four close-range birdies.
Further gains came from 12 feet on the 10th and six feet on the 17th to give him a slender advantage over Laird.
*** The addition of a new event to the Thailand swing, a new Qualifying School venue in Morocco and continuation of the co-sanctioned events with the Sunshine Big Easy Tour are among the highlights of the 2017 MENA Golf Tour schedule.
Unveiled this morning before the leaders headed out in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the schedule starts with the Qualifying School at Royal Golf El Jadida in Morocco from March 5-8.
It will be followed by back-to-back events in the North African country, with the third-tier circuit featuring a total of 15 tournaments before the season-ending Tour Championship returns to its original home at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club in October.