Martin Laird 'very happy' with strong start in US PGA at tough Kiawah Island
Another major, another Scot to the fore. But not Bob MacIntyre on this occasion. On a day when he was “disappointed” with a 75 after missing just two fairways, Martin Laird was the man making his presence felt on the leaderboard in the opening round of the 103rd US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
Helped by four birdies on the spin on the tough Ocean Course at the South Carolina venue, the 38-year-old held the lead on his own before finishing bogey-bogey. Nonetheless, a two-under-par 70 represented a fine morning’s work on the longest test in major championship history in a 20mph breeze.
“Very happy with the round, even though I bogeyed the last two,” said four-time PGA Tour winner Laird, who had made seven birdies prior to that, afterwards. “You don't often finish bogey-bogey and feel pretty good, but I do.”
Making his seventh appearance in the Wanamaker Trophy event, the Denver-based Glaswegian was two-over after five holes before transforming his day with three birdies in four holes around the turn then that purple patch from the 13th.
“Yeah, it's definitely up there,” he said of the effort being one of his best in majors. “I played really nice. Any time you make seven birdies around here, you're playing good.
“I kind of went out with the mindset this week, even though it's hard, don't give the course too much respect. You still have to take on shots when you have the chance. I felt like I did a good job of that.
“I got on a little heater stretch there on the back nine, turned into the wind and birdied 14, 15, 16, which are bonuses, hitting 4-irons (for his approaches).”
Laird is playing in this event for the first time since 2017 on the back of winning the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open for a second time in Las Vegas in October. He’s missed the cut more than he has made it to the weekend, but his best finish - a tie for 42nd - came on the same course in 2012.
“To be honest, I didn't really remember much about the golf course,” he admitted. “I know I liked it. It's definitely a course you have to think your way around, which I generally like and seem to play better.”
MacIntyre, who tied for 12th on his Masters debut last month, hit 12 out of 14 fairways, but a double-bogey 6 at the 18th - his ninth - and a total of 32 putts stopped him from joining Laird in making a strong start.
“Disappointed with the score,” said the 24-year-old from Oban. “I felt like I played as good as I really could have, I just didn't hole many putts. You get days like that, but there's a lot of confidence to take from it.
“I drove it as good as I could have driven the ball. Downwind it was going for miles, and into the wind it was in full control.”
The 2019 European Tour Rookie of the Year said this week’s test is “definitely in the top two” in terms of the toughest tests he’s faced, adding: “I hit one bad shot on 18 and I got punished big time. But it's golf, and I get to get battered again tomorrow.”
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