Friday 23 February 2018

Laird digs deep to seal Palmer glory

William S Callahan

MARTIN LAIRD emerged smiling from a demolition derby at The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill yesterday to clinch a sensational double for Scotland.

Laird virtually had to come back from the dead to seal his second PGA Tour victory to follow newly crowned Open de Andalucia champion Paul Lawrie into the winner's circle.

It certainly wasn't pretty as overnight leader Laird (28) slumped to five-over with a double-bogey six on hole 11 but courageous back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16 pushed him back in front of a flagging Steve Marino.

A couple of gutsy par saves on the closing holes were good enough to clinch by one on eight-under after Marino picked up a fighting birdie of his own at 18. Laird's closing 75 is the highest final round by a winner on the US Tour since Trevor Immelman at the 2008 US Masters.

Justin Rose tied third with Aussie Marc Leishman and American veteran David Toms on six-under after a phenomenal final-round 68 on a day when the field faced a series of killer pins, hard greens and gusting winds.

Sergio Garcia clinched his first top-10 finish in 18 months on the PGA Tour, a closing 70 lifting the Spaniard into eighth place on four-under.

Tiger Woods dropped three shots in a nightmare conclusion yet still delivered a remarkably upbeat report on his golf game.

Those who have become accustomed to seeing grandstand finishes from Woods as he swooped for victory in six of his last 10 visits to Arnie's 'back yard' were stunned as he followed an ugly bogey at the par-three 17th with a double-bogey six at the last.

An even-par final round left Tiger tied 26th on one-under, a disappointing outcome when one considers how he'd forced himself into contention with Friday's impressive 68.

Yet Woods insisted "the best shot I'd hit all day was on 17 and it didn't come off" -- his ball landed in a plugged lie in the front bunker and he took two to get out. As for 18, his approach from centre fairway failed to make the 148 yards carry across the hazard as he fired for the treacherous front pin.

"I was caught right between clubs, went for the lower one and it didn't work out," Tiger said.

Summarising his tournament, Woods said: "I hit three balls in the water this week and had a few missed putts here and there but I really felt comfortable on the things we've been working on over the past couple of weeks."

Phil Mickelson once again missed out on a glorious opportunity to overtake Woods in the world rankings for the first time in 14 years when he dropped three shots in the final five holes to post a 73 and finish in a tie with Tiger on one-under.

Irish Independent

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