Form good ahead of first Masters appearance
I'm obviously delighted to have won again on the PGA Tour, especially a tournament of the stature of Bay Hill. It makes it extra special when 'The King' himself, Arnold Palmer, is waiting for you off of the 18th green to congratulate you.
I'm also very excited about my climb up the world rankings. I've been playing great over the last seven months, so it's extra satisfying to get a win and jump up into the top 25 in the world.
I don't target certain positions in the rankings, but it shows me that my hard work has paid off and I'm working on the correct things.
Laird (right) receives his winner's trophy from Palmer. Photo: Getty Images
It was a very up and down final round at Bay Hill; or more accurately, quite a few downs and then a huge up at the end!
I knew right from the beginning of the day that it was going to be a battle as I just didn't have my swing. That showed early on and into the middle of the round. I had to dig deep to stay in contention by holing a lot of good putts just to have a chance over the last few holes. I was extremely proud of the way I hit the ball over the last four holes to end up on top.
I really didn't think that my chance was gone, even when I was five over for the round. I knew that the last six holes were going to be playing extremely tough and Steve Marino wasn't going to pull away any more.
There were still two par 5 holes left to play and I knew I had to take advantage of them; something I managed to do all week. The aim then was to pick a shot or two up elsewhere to get right back in contention.
It was one of the toughest course set-ups I've ever played when you consider the wind, the firmness and speed of the greens and more importantly the pin positions.
Apart from the two par 5s, there really weren't any other legitimate birdie holes. I knew I would have to pull off either a risky and exceptional shot to get it close, or hole a long putt, to make a birdie on any of those holes. I managed that on 15.
I had a few near misses last year and a couple of poor final rounds when I've had a chance to win this year. Those experiences definitely played a part in my determination to never give up on this title.
It was my tournament to win and I was going to grind it out as hard as I could until the end, until I had the trophy.
I thought back to my 3 putt at the Barclays last year when I was walking up to the 18th green. I let that tournament slip through my fingers and was not going to let it happen again. I was as focused as I've ever been on that last green, taking nothing for granted.
I'm not someone that sets individual goals that much; I just try to improve every year and see where that takes me. I'm not shocked that I've achieved two tour wins already, but if you had told me a couple years ago that I'd be 21st in the world, I probably wouldn't have believed you.
I'm definitely taking a lot of confidence out of my win last week, against a tough field on a very tough golf course. This can only help going into the Masters and for the rest of the year.
It's always tough playing a course for the first time, but especially tough at Augusta. There's just so much 'local' knowledge that you can learn and use as an advantage.
In saying that, I don't see why I can't be in contention on Sunday. I feel like my game suits the course well, now that it's such a long layout. Everyone knows that it all really comes down to putting in the end at Augusta and that's probably the best area of my game right now.
Increased expectation on me won't make a difference. My goals and thoughts on the week haven't changed. I always go into tournaments thinking I can win, and this won't change next week.
The first time I got to Augusta was pretty special. I've seen it so many times on TV and to finally be there was brilliant. I just kind of walked around and stared for a while checking everything out.
It was so good to go out and play the course before the mayhem of Masters week itself. The front 9 is really good, but the back 9 are the best nine holes I've ever played. There are so many excellent holes all the way to the massive climb up the 18th fairway to the final green. I can't wait to get to those last nine holes on the weekend when the place is buzzing with excitement. It really doesn't get any better.
My main goal going into next week is to have fun and enjoy my first competitive experience there. If I make sure I do that and not take it overly seriously, then I'll play my best golf.
I know with the way that I've been playing recently that I can get myself into position on Sunday to mount a challenge. First timer or not, I really believe that I can have a run at the green jacket if I play like I have over the last month.
All in all, I want to soak the whole experience up as much as possible and have a fantastic week. I'm sure I'll learn a lot about the golf course by making some mistakes when I'm out there. That's the only way to get better and I hope that I remember the mistakes I do make in the future.