Laird and Lawrie provide deserved Scottish delight
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. 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.