warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Laird Two Putts His Way to Victory at Bay Hill

Johnie Freatman |
March 30, 2011 | 10:46 a.m. PDT

Sports Writer

Martin Laird held on for a one-shot win at Bay Hill Sunday. (Creative Commons/rjdudley)
Martin Laird held on for a one-shot win at Bay Hill Sunday. (Creative Commons/rjdudley)
Martin Laird successfully two-putted for par from 90 feet on the 18th hole at Bay Hill on Sunday to complete a one-shot victory over Steve Marino in one of the craziest final rounds ever in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Laird’s final-round three-over 75 was the highest by any winner in the history of the tournament. However, it was enough for his second career PGA Tour victory on a day when the winds were swirling and the greens were especially firm.
“That was a tough fight out there,” Laird said. “It was a battle out there, but you know, it makes it even sweeter at the end when I got this trophy.”
“Sweet” is definitely not a way that runner-up Steve Marino would describe the day. The 31-year-old American had a three-shot lead on the back nine, only to see it evaporate with a bogey on 15 and a double bogey on 17, both of which occurred after his ball “plugged” in greenside bunkers.
“You just cannot afford to [waste] shots in the final round – really at any point in the tournament – if you want to win. Unfortunately on 17, that’s exactly what I did. It came back to bite me,” Marino said.
This is merely the latest close call for the snakebitten Marino, who is without a win in his five years on Tour and has four second place finishes, including two this year.
Marino was not the only player near the lead to experience struggles at Bay Hill. The final six players on the course shot a combined 19 over par and none in that group broke par. Emerging superstars Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler each shot 78.
Laird looked destined to squander his own chance at victory when he played the first 11 holes in five over par, falling three strokes behind Marino.
However, he rallied to play the final seven holes in 2 under and showed he had his nerves under control by making lengthy putts on 13, 16 and 17.
“I never thought about not winning. When I was three down, I didn’t have a choice. I had to start playing some good golf. I had to make birdies,” Laird said.
Birdies were difficult to come by for the two best players in the tournament’s field. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson tied for 24th place at one over 289.
This was Woods’ last tournament before Augusta. One would expect him to be unhappy with the result, but Woods said he is pleased with the progress he’s making with his new swing. “It’s getting better every week I’ve played,” he said.
Mickelson battled inconsistency throughout the tournament. He was near the lead before making a triple bogey during the second round, but he never challenged the leaders again. A poor finish prevented him from a top 10 placement. The lefty will try to gain some momentum in the Shell Houston Open this week before going to defend his title at Augusta National, a venue that seems to always bring out the best in his game.
As for Laird, his length off the tee (he’s sixth on the PGA Tour in driving distance) and clutch putting  make him a seemingly ideal contender at Augusta. For this day, however, he was content to savor the spoils of his victory.
Laird was elated after being congratulated by Palmer on his tournament win. “It really doesn’t get any better,” he said.


To reach Johnie Freatman, click here. Follow him on Twitter @scfreats.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.