Scotland’s Martin Laird wins in Las Vegas for his fourth PGA Tour title and is back in world top 100
Playing on a sponsor’s exemption as he returns from knee surgery earlier in the year, the 37-year-old holed a 22-foot birdie putt at the second extra hole at TPC Summerlin to win a shoot-out against American duo Matthew Wolff and Austin Cook.
It was Laird’s second success in the event, having landed his breakthrough on the US circuit on the same course in 2009, when he also won in a play-off over Chad Campbell and George McNeill.
The Glaswegian then lost out in a play-off in his title defence the following year to Jonathan Byrd, who made a hole-in-one in that shoot-out to win.
“I’m unbelievably excited to have pulled that off today,” said Laird as he savoured a success worth $1.26 million, having closed with a 68 for his 23-under-par 261 total.Wolff, the last player to win on the circuit on a sponsor’s exemption when he landed the 3M Open last year, and Cook had both closed with 66s to match the Scot’s aggregate.
"You have some doubts at times whether you're going to get another one. I just played so well all week this week tee to green; was probably the best I ever played. Just felt in control really all week. To see that putt go in on that hole, it was pretty special,” added the winner.
Laird's second PGA Tour victory came in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in 2011 before he won the Valero Texas Open just over two years later, a success that earned him a late spot in The Masters.
He's heading back to Augusta next April after this latest victory and has risen from 351st to 88th in the world rankings, making him the new Scottish No 1 with Bob MacInytre in 94th.
"Obviously there is a lot of the doors open with the win, and that's one of the nice perks," said Laird, who is up to fourth in the FedEx Cup rankings, of securing his 2021 Masters invitation. "I'm going to enjoy them all and that'll definitely be one of them.
“When I sit back and think about it, this win might go right to the top just because it's been a while. I had a bunch of life changes since my last win.
"Now I've got a couple kids who kept asking me when I was going to win the trophy. It's going to be nice to take a trophy home for them this time.”
Laird, who is back living in Denver after a second spell in Arizona, started the final round in a tie for the lead with American Patrick Cantlay on 20-under after opening efforts of 65-63-65.
After seeing US Open Bryson DeChambeau do his best to put some pressure on the leaders with a closing 66 to finish on 18-under, was one-under for his round before he eagled the par-5 ninth for the third day in a row to turn in 32.
He then covered the back nine in level par, holing a 17-foot putt for a 3 at the penultimate hole after a pushed tee shot left him in a perilous position. "That was one my best ever up and downs," he admitted.
Despite being a former winner, Laird needed a rare sponsor's exemption for the event after being forced to miss the PGA Tour's restart in the summer after undergoing surgery on his left knee.
He missed the cut in the opening event of the new wraparound season in the Safeway Open just over a month ago but had been encouraged with his two subsequent starts, which included a top-30 finish behind Sergio Garcia in the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.
"I've made a conscious effort to be patient," he said. "Sometimes you come back and just want to be playing great right away. I knew it would be a process. Every week I've felt like I played a little better, got a little sharper.
"Putting has been getting a little better. I knew it was trending the right direction and I was coming to a course I love. But obviously I wasn't getting ahead of myself thinking I was going to come back and win as soon as I did. Just makes it that much sweeter.
"I figured I would struggle to get in (this week), so I was grateful to get a spot and come here and have a chance to play. Obviously to come away with the win makes it even more special."
Meanwhile, Colin Montgomerie agonisingly lost out by a shot to Ernie Els in the SAS Championship on the Champions Tour in North Carolina after the South African holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the last hole.
Montgomerie, who had started the day in a share of the lead with Darren Clarke and Woody Austin, twice moved into the outright lead on the back nine only for Els to respond with birdies on each occasion.
The two-time Open champion moved level with Montgomerie with his sixth birdie of the day at the 17th before rolling in his putt at the next for a closing 66 and 12-under-par 204 total.
“It’s a crazy game,” said Els as he celebrated a second win on the over-50s circuit in 10 starts. “A couple of weeks ago I missed a very short putt to get in a play-off and today I make a 40-footer. Figure that one out.”
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