Martin Laird faces fight to make 2013 Masters

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MARTIN Laird’s participation in next year’s Masters is under threat after the US-based Scot slipped out of the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time in two years. The 29-year-old has dropped to 51st in the rankings and, with his season now over, he probably won’t get back into the all-important top 50 before the end of the year despite the system often throwing up puzzling movements.

Laird has been among golf’s elite since first breaking into the top 50 in the last week of October, 2010, rising to a career-high 21st following his victory in the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Lying 35th, Laird was still Scotland’s top-ranked player heading into this year’s Masters at Augusta, where he tied for 47th behind American Bubba Watson. However, he was leapfrogged by Paul Lawrie after the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth at the end of the May and has since slipped 24 spots behind his compatriot in the rankings.

A top-30 finish on the PGA Tour money-list would have been another avenue for Laird to be in the field for the opening major of the 2013 season. But, despite amassing earnings of close to $2.2 million this year, he’s currently lying 36th on that and, through the projected rankings, is expected to finish even lower. Even though his season finished in Malaysia a fortnight ago, Laird still has time to secure a third successive Masters appearance, having tied for 20th on his Augusta debut in 2011.

As well as the top 50 in the world at the end of this year, any player in that through the Houston Open, which takes place a fortnight before The Masters, also earns an invitation. So, if the Scot can make a fine start to the 2013 campaign – and he’s done that before, when tying for fourth in the season-opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in 2010 – then he has a good chance of getting back into that elite group.

After making his first appearance at Augusta for eight years, when he finished 24th, Lawrie has already secured his return next April, when he will be joined by Sandy Lyle as he celebrates the 25th anniversary of his win.