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Laird and Lawrie provide deserved Scottish delight

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Iain Carter | 16:10 UK time, Monday, 28 March 2011

Scotland is the Home of Golf, although that has been barely apparent in recent years when occasions to sound bagpipes to herald victories have occurred all too infrequently.

But after wins on both sides of the Atlantic for Scots Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird it is tempting to use the tired old London bus analogy about waiting for ages and then two come along at the same time.

Except, there was Scottish cheer a couple of weeks ago with Sandy Lyle's Seniors' Tour win in China as well - so this is now becoming a glut of golfing success to help make up for Andy Murray's loss of tennis form and the desertion of Sir Chris Hoy's golden touch on his bike.

It is wonderful to see Lawrie back in the winner's circle for the first time since 2002, but it is Laird's victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill that should capture most attention.

The American-based 28-year-old from Glasgow superbly held his nerve down the stretch to claim a one-shot victory that provided, by some distance, the biggest title of his career.

Even though he held a two-stroke lead going into the final round, it proved an unlikely win because he appeared to have blown the tournament with a ragged opening 11 holes played in five-over-par.

Bay Hill's final round set-up was brutally difficult and all the leading contenders struggled to cope with the fiendish pin positions guarded by bunkers with sand so deep, balls regularly plugged when they fell into hazards on the full.

The greens were lightening quick and the level of difficulty was up there with a US Open layout, which didn't make for great viewing but produced an exacting test of the players' nerve, skill and, on occasion, luck.

Laird deserves full credit, though, for regathering his composure to complete the final four holes in two-under-par. Covering a treacherous 87 feet in the requisite two putts at the last was all the more creditable given the way he squandered a similar winning position at the Barclays last August.

This win proved that the Scot has learned much and grown stronger from that bitter experience. He has begun this season exceptionally well and after third place in Phoenix in February has now finished 10th, fifth and first in his last three outings.

It was vital to Laird's development that he took advantage of one of these opportunities sooner rather than later and to do it in your last tournament before making your Masters debut is exquisite timing.

What was most impressive was his composure around the greens. His caddie said after Laird had double bogeyed the 11th en route to falling three shots behind Steve Marino: "We still have this," and pointed at the Scot's elongated putter. The player acknowledged that they were vital words, injecting much needed confidence.

Martin Laird with the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy at Bay Hill

Martin Laird with the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy at Bay Hill. Pic: Reuters.

Now the question is whether he can contend at the first major of the year? Certainly Laird is one of the form players of 2011 in the Masters line-up but as is so often documented, debutants rarely win at Augusta.

Fuzzy Zoeller was the last to don a green jacket at the first attempt and that was back in 1979. If you are looking for a pointer from the Bay Hill tournament, perhaps Justin Rose's third place is the one to follow. Rose has led after the first, second and third rounds at previous Masters, perhaps this is the Englishman's year?

Nevertheless Laird is entitled to feel at home with the world's elite at Augusta. In the last year he has rocketed up the world rankings and now sits 21st in the standings and able to contemplate the global schedule he has craved since graduating in 2004.

Brought up in Glasgow, he learned his game at the Hilton Park course in Bearsden. His first golf club was left-handed and that is how he initially began playing. "Any photos my parents have of me as a little kid, before I really knew what golf was, I'm standing at the ball left-handed," Laird revealed.

"But when it got time for me to actually play a little golf, my dad couldn't get any left-handed clubs, so got me right-handed ones and that was it.

"I joke with him and wonder how good I could have been if I was left-handed," Laird added.

It was as a student at Colorado State that his game was truly reinvented. "I was 17 years old when I came over to America and wasn't really very good. By the time I graduated I definitely had improved a lot."

The low slinging draw, learned in the winds of Scotland, was overhauled and he now hits a high ball that may prove a genuine asset at Augusta, particularly now that it is allied to a winning mentality.

Even so it is asking an awful lot to think that Laird could win the Masters on debut, particularly as he now favours a fade that takes the ball in the opposite flightpath to the shape of most of Augusta's holes. But if he can build on his current form he has the potential to become a regular contender in all of the biggest tournaments.

Lawrie, of course, was the last Scot to win a major with his victory at the Open in 1999. Now the man from Aberdeen is celebrating his win in the European Tour's Open de Andalucia which has propelled him from 272nd to 150th in the world rankings.

This triumph also ensures Lawrie will return to Southern Spain in May for the Volvo World Match Play Championship, an event that will boast the current top two in the world - Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood as well as Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey.

Lawrie will relish his return to big time golf. The 42-year-old has now won eight times and while some believe he overachieved in claiming the 1999 Open it is also perfectly possible to argue that the man nicknamed "Chippy" possesses a game worthy of more victories.

So too, for that matter, does Martin Laird. All of a sudden the golfing outlook for the nation credited with inventing the game looks much more encouraging.


  • Comment number 1.

    Good article.

    Fantastic weekend for Scottish golf and it gave me great delight to see them both hold their nerve down the back 9. It certainly didn't look good for either of them early on so both showed tremendous mental stregth to hang in there.

    I followed Laird around Loch Lomond a couple of years ago and have been a huge fan ever since. It was an emotional rollercoaster watching him last night that's for sure.

    Out of interest, when was the last time players from the same country won on the 2 main tours on the same day? As a pure guess, I would say it was likely to be a South African or Australian duo?

  • Comment number 2.

    Well done Martin Laird! I've been following his progress for a couple of years now and he's been getting more and more consistent. Being a proud Scot I'm delighted to see Martin doing so well and really hope he can kick on now and make this a real break through season. A major would be sensational but why not? After all, most people didn't expect Graeme McDowell to win the US open last year and he's just gone from strength to strength. I'm sure at this level it's not so much about ability but confidence and experience of being in the mix on Sundays. All the best to you in The Masters my son. Go out and enjoy yourself!

  • Comment number 3.

    Fabulous to see Lawrie and Laird winning, both seem to have great golfing stories behind them. As an Irishman living in USA I'm loving the European success on the PGA tour, Martin Laird has served his apprenticeship and his victory yesterday was fabulous.

    This will sound like I am taking away from Paul Lawrie's win but I was struck by the world rankings in the Andalucia event. In the whole field I think I counted ten players in the top 100. You can only beat the field you are in and Lawrie will rightly not loose too much sleep over who was and was not present, but for me it takes a little of the gloss off his win (and the European Tour), and shows Laird's win to be even more impressive considering the quality of the field he was up against.

  • Comment number 4.

    "which didn't make for great viewing" au contraire it was thrilling to watch.

    Two Scots winning on the same day is such a great story and both (but more so Lawrie) are benefiting from this extra dimension.

    Let's also not forget there was a third winning Scot yesterday in Dario Franchitti who was victorious in the first race of the IndyCar series in Florida. It is often said Martin Laird didn't receive the media attention he deserved but it's nothing to the virtually ignored Dario Franchitti.

  • Comment number 5.

    Great win for Martin Laird; we've been writing about Laird on 606 for four years now, good to see his achievements finally recognised.

    #1:"lawson": One candidate for nationalities winning on the PGA Tour and European Tour on the same day might be last year, the week after The Open:
    Carl Pettersson won in Canada, Richard S.Johnson in Sweden. Perhaps Iain may have a more up-to-date instance.
    And one May day in 1993, New Zealanders won on the European Tour, PGA Tour and the Senior Tour (as it was then).

  • Comment number 6.

    As much as I agree that's Lairds win was more significant, I can't see this as a "Scottish" revival. They have 1 world class player. They are comfortably in 3rd place in the UK countries behind N.Ireland and England and if Rhys Davies fulfills his potential they may be back down to 4th shortly.

    Let's just see it for what it is.....a nice coincidence.

    Well done Martin Laird, great to see you up there with the big boys.

  • Comment number 7.

    I am totally made up for Paul Lawrie, who is one of sports good guys... get beyond Scots Dourness is a guy whose Foundation programme engages so many young golfers in Scotland. If more sportsmen took his lead in giving back to their Sport - the world would be a better place and we'd have more Scottish, Irish, English and Welsh winners. Lawrie has such a smooth swing and if his putter "can behave" will win again...

  • Comment number 8.

    Well done to both of them, it's a shame Andy Murray can't show the same resilience under pressure. I've been watching Laird for a while and he's certainly got the game to win big and could be a top five player. He would have won the Barkley's if not for an extremely fortunate shot out of the rough from Kutcher. Lawrie still has the game to win and it wouldn't surprise me if he won again soon.

  • Comment number 9.

    If you hadn't noticed Laird hit a shot out of a fairway bunker that caught the top of the lip and somehow found its way onto the green. He will never have a more fortunate shot again in his lifetime.

  • Comment number 10.

    Waldo, might be worth pointing out that Murray has at a much younger age won way bigger events than the one Laird has just won. He has beaten the very best in the world at Masters events and almost hit the summit in the slams. The only time he has been found truly wanting is in Grand Slam finals, Lairds major record so far I believe is missed cut, missed cut and 48th. Not really coping with the big time pressure there really.
    Lairds career is thus far nothing compared to Murrays, as athletes they are not on the same planet and with respect to Laird I cant see him being a consistent top 5 golfer.
    Sure Laird has done well but to use his win as a means to have a go at Murray is a complete joke, I remember Laird 3 putting at the 18th of the Barclays a matter of months ago, the words resilient under pressure werent the ones being used then as I remember.....

  • Comment number 11.

    Great wins this week for both Scots. I just have to point out that Hilton Park GC is in Milngavie.

  • Comment number 12.

    Laird does have the game to compete, but he does get light headed at the top of the leader board. WInning the Bay Hill could be a turning point for his game, or he might drift away as he did in many other final days. The masters this year will be very interesting with so many Europeans in the top 10. I think it will be the year of the Euro this year. Steady Westwood, long and short Kymer, experienced Rose, form players Laine, Donald and young players like Mcilroy will all be there in with a chance. Can't wait for the first tee!

  • Comment number 13.

    #12: Andrew Hirst:
    " . . . he might drift away as he did in many other final days." Would you please be more specific?

  • Comment number 14.

    #12: Andrew Hirst:
    "long and short Kymer" ... Huh?!

  • Comment number 15.

    Nice article. However, as a proud Englishman I'd just like to remind you that when a Scottish sportsman is victorious that they should be referred to as British...they're only Scottish when they lose! ;)

  • Comment number 16.

    Re the bunkers it was great to see landing in a trap a real penalty - maybe half a stroke - versus most weeks when the majority of players can control out the sand with very little impact. And phsycologically it became more of a test for those that lose their head when they are not scoring birdie after birdie like many of the US PGA Mickey Mouse events.

  • Comment number 17.

    Fantastic to see the guys do it on Sunday, as a proud Glaswegian I was thrilled when they both came through to win in the end.

    This is also another endorsement for the US system for as Martin said, he was not that good a player when he left Scotland for the US, so credit to US College golf for helping him to hone his talents.

  • Comment number 18.

    Luck is always so difficult to put into context - sure he was lucky with the fairway wood out of the bunker - it was incredible to watch as it rolled to within eagle putt range - he was also extremely unlucky when defending his only previous PGA Tour victory - The Justin Timberlake tournament - Jonathan Byrd holed in one on the 17th to take The Shriners.

    It was a great performance by Laird, who also seems to be a top bloke though I agree with Ian that Augusta is rarely a faders course. He is also being very consistent this year and is often on the leaderboard come Sunday - somedays he plays well others not so great - tell me when it is any different for any top player.

    It was a weekend for the good guys, Paul Lawrie has always carried himself with so much dignity and still has one of the purest swings on tour - a delight to watch & I'll bet we all understand the woes of a putter that doesn't behave !!

    Great results for Scotland, the UK and European golf and as an exiled Englishman north of the border, it's nice for Scotland to get the credit.

    More power to both of them, tempted with a e/w bet on Laird at The Masters but fear it is heart over head - may stump for Rose, Johnson and Woodland with a sneaky wee fiver on Laird - how Tiger is favorite is beyond me (and I realise he was 4th last year turning up pretty cold).

    Great weekend of golf, let's hope it continued this week in Houston & Morocco.

  • Comment number 19.

    On a seperate point and worth some further thought Iain - I have just looked at the schedule for the years golf on the European Tour website - if you discount the Open - there is one tournaments in England - Wentworth. There are 7 in Spain (and a couple over the border in Portugal) - an amazing concentration of golf events, especially for a couple of countries without two Euro's to rub together.

    If you take a holistic view, the 'old' countries are being left behind with four events in South Africa to start the year off, followed by a plethora of events in the far east bookending the season and the middle east swing that is becoming an exciting addition to the golfing calander in the dark winter months over here.

    Granted the Open, Wentworth, Scottish Open (at the fantastic Castle Stuart this year - pray for good weather) and the Dunhill are all big money events, but surely we must be looking for the English Open (I supose we should add the Wales Open in as well as the Irish Open which are on the calendar), and what about an event in Northern Ireland - surely a country with RCD and Royal Portrush and the new addition at Lough Erne cannot continue to go without a tournament (I know that McIlroy, Clarke and McDowell are trying to start something)....

    Anyway just struck me when I was checking a couple of details out about my last post......

  • Comment number 20.

    You could add that it's more than high time that the European Tour demanded a WGC in Europe.
    Disgraceful that the European Tour has been unable to secure a WGC for so many years. Golf in Europe needs showcases to attract worldwide TV coverage and sponsors, and get enthusiasts into the habit of supporting professional golf.

  • Comment number 21.

    The Mullett of Chris Waddle
    Nice article. However, as a proud Englishman I'd just like to remind you that when a Scottish sportsman is victorious that they should be referred to as British...they're only Scottish when they lose! ;)


    Just thought I would let you know that I'm a proud Scotsman. Martin Laird and Andy Murray have also said they are Scottish, win or lose to me they are still Scottish. Who would want to be British when it means we get associated with you lot and your terrible worldwide reputation.

  • Comment number 22.

    ..and don't forget Sandy Lyle who won in China a week before. Congrats to all ... now..talking about Scots. Sam Torrance has apparently been cut as a commentator from the BBC coverage of The Masters. Someone correct me but I don't see that report on..The Beeb. Its in The Daily Telegrape. So presumably this means we are stuck with Laidlow's incessant meaningless drivel and England's answer to deadly nightshade, Julian Tutt. Please say its not true.......

  • Comment number 23.

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