MARTIN Laird, who has won all three of his PGA Tour titles using a long putter, has no intention of switching to a conventional model in the countdown to the anchoring ban kicking in at the start of 2016.
Instead, the 30-year-old Scot will cut a couple of inches off the shaft of the putter he uses at the moment and add some weight into its handle but, even then, Laird said he’ll be leaving that almost to the last minute.
While insisting his method of using a belly putter doesn’t actually involve it being anchored, the 2014 Ryder Cup hopeful acknowledged he will have to take some action to ensure that the grip doesn’t touch his clothing and put him at risk of being penalised once the ban being implemented by the R&A and USGSA comes into force.
“I’m not overly concerned because I don’t really anchor it anyway and I’m not panicking because I don’t think it’s going to take me too long to get used to whatever I decide to do,” said Laird, whose latest success on the US Tour came courtesy of a red-hot putter as he closed with a 63 to pip world No 2 Rory McIlroy in the Valero Texas Open in April. “I got a TaylorMade putter earlier this year with a shorter grip with weighting on the top of the grip, so it’s pretty much the same feeling as the putter I’m using just now. I have it in my garage but haven’t done much messing around with it yet. Even just cutting a couple of inches off the putter I use now and putting a little extra weight in the handle will feel exactly the same.
“It’s something I’m not going to rush into. I’m not doing anything this year or maybe not even next year. It’s probably something where I’ll wait until six months out from the change, then I can start working on it.”
Having worked hard on his long game since switching to a new coach in Randy Smith, Laird is heading into next week’s US Open at Merion, where he’ll be joined by fellow exempt player Paul Lawrie and qualifiers Chris Doak and Russell Knox, in confident mood.
“My win in San Antonio was probably the best I’ve hit my irons Thursday through Sunday, in any tournament I’ve ever played,” said Laird. “That has carried on and last week at The Memorial I probably hit my irons almost as good as I did in Texas, I just didn’t drive or putt very well. In terms of the swing changes, I am really at the stage where I’m not thinking about them any more, I’m just playing golf. I really noticed that last week at Muirfield Village, shaping the ball in the wind without having to go through technical thoughts to get there. That’s why I’m really excited about the next few weeks. The one thing I need to sort out is my driving, though I might get away with it at the US Open because it’s a pretty short course and won’t require me to hit too many drivers.”
Asked if he felt he was capable of becoming Scotland’s first major winner since Lawrie was crowned Open champion at Carnoustie 14 years ago, he added: ‘It’s obviously the next progression from winning tournaments like Texas and Bay Hill. I wouldn’t say it’s something I have to do, but I definitely want to get into contention more in majors. I’m not going to be greedy and say I want to win one in the next year or two – but I want to get in the mix and get the feeling of what it’s like being there on Sunday in a tournament like the Open, US Open or whatever one it is.
“I definitely feel like I’m good enough to win a major. It’s just a question of getting everything clicking in the right week, getting your short-game right, hitting the ball well – you need everything to win a major. But I feel like, if I get in one and get the timing right, I definitely have a chance.”
Committed to playing in next month’s Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, Laird is also hoping to qualify for The Open at Muirfield the following week. His remaining routes are through the FedEx Cup, winning the Scottish Open or, as a last resort, coming in for a withdrawal off the world rankings.