“The Ryder Cup is in my mind and I would like to be part of that European team but I am not out there thinking about it all the time,” insisted the US-based player. “That was maybe the problem at the start of the year because I talked about getting off to a fast start in terms of qualifying.
“I went out and finished second in my first event of the year [the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii] and I would be lying to myself if at the time I didn’t start thinking of qualifying automatically for the side.
“I look back now and that might have been part of the reason why I struggled with my game for a couple of months as I was thinking about the Ryder Cup too much. The last month I hadn’t even played well enough to think of the Ryder Cup, so I have been purposely trying not to think about it.
“I’ve been asked questions about the Ryder Cup but, on paper, I haven’t played well enough and I feel by putting it out of my mind it’s going to help me and it’s by playing good golf that is going to get me on the team.”
Laird, Paul Lawrie and Richie Ramsay were among the 30 leading players on Europe’s qualifying table who had an appointment with the Ryder Cup tailor at Wentworth yesterday. “It was nice to attend the fitting session this morning and here’s hoping it was not for no reason,” added Laird. “It’s nice to be a part of that and to know that you are in the mix.”
While Laird’s results did suffer a slight dip after he reached the last eight in the Accenture Match Play Championship in February, the world No 31 returned to form with a vengeance when tying for second in his last outing – The Players’ Championship at Sawgrass. “That was a great result and I’ve gained a lot of confidence coming off that – I’m coming here to Wentworth with a real spring in my step after my result at The Players, and my game is in good shape,” he said. “I have been waiting for a result like that for a while and it was nice to do it at a big event like The Players’ Championship.”
Laird, who has been paired with world No 1 Rory McIlroy and Ernie Els, the man who re-designed the famous East Course, in the opening two rounds, added: “It was a big jump up the world ranking and a lot of Ryder Cup points but more than that it was the confidence I gained from that week. It was my best finish ever in what you call a marquee event. They always talk about The Players being a fifth major but I have never ever been in contention in one of those huge events before, so it was nice to be up there.
“I felt really comfortable up there and in contention on the Sunday and that’s what I am taking most out of the tournament. I wasn’t at all nervous and, when I was out there, I felt I could still win. When you look at my results normally my golf tends to get better as the year goes along. Last year was the only year that did not happen but I am hoping that it will be the case this year. So I am hoping my result in The Players is the stepping stone to moving up.”
Laird, who will have his dad, Charles, and his two sisters, Kerry and Elise, cheering him on this week, is also playing in the French Open for the first time this year before heading back to Castle Stuart in July for the Scottish Open. As is the case this week, he will be taking a step into the unknown at both Royal Lytham and Kiawah Island, venues for The Open and USPGA Championship later in the year.
“It’s like coming here this week,” he observed. “That makes it more fun because I go into the tournaments where I have never played before so I have no expectations based on past results. It’s just fun to go out and play new courses.”