Laird survives early collapse to win Bay Hill
Martin Laird overcame a stunning mini-collapse in Sunday’s final
round to win the Arnold Palmer Classic at Bay Hill.
The Scotsman went from a three-shot lead to a three-shot deficit
in a span of seven holes. He was three shots behind when he walked
off the 14th green, two shots ahead as he headed to the 17th tee.
After 18, he was receiving personal congratulations from Palmer
”That was a hell of a day,” Laird said. ”That was a tough
fight out there. It was a battle out there, but you know, it makes
it even sweeter at the end when I got this trophy.”
In the toughest final round on the PGA Tour this year, Laird was
strong at the end with two birdies and two clutch pars to close
with a 3-over 75, the highest final round by a winner in the
33-year history at Bay Hill.
That two-putt par on the 18th was just enough for a one-shot
victory over hard-luck Steve Marino, who lost three shots on two
plugged lies in bunkers over the last four holes. Marino followed a
double bogey on the par-3 17th with an all-or-nothing shot over the
water at the flag to 8 feet on the last hole for birdie and a
”You just cannot afford to (waste) shots in the final round –
really, at any point in the tournament – if you want to win,”
Marino said after his third close call this year. ”Unfortunately
on 17, that’s exactly what I did. It came back to bite me.”
Laird, a 28-year-old who came to America to play college golf
and never left, became the first European to win at Bay Hill. He
now heads off to the Masters for the first major of the year,
having felt like he just won one.
Considering all the calamity, it felt as though the U.S. Open
have moved from June to March. No one in the last three groups
broke par, and those six players were a combined 19-over par.
For Laird, it turned out to be a remarkable revival. When he
pulled his approach from a fairway bunker into the water on No. 11
and made double bogey, he already was 5 over for the round. But
while he lost the lead, he never lost hope.
”I never thought about not winning,” Laird said. ”When I saw
I was three down, I didn’t have a choice. I had to start playing
some good golf. I had to make birdies. Steve was playing too good.
That was really the focus. It was trying to get this trophy.”
Laird needed some help from Marino, who played beautifully until
the last four holes.
Marino went at the flag on the 15th, tucked right behind the
bunker, and his ball plugged in the soft sand. He blasted out to 35
feet and made bogey. Then came the 17th, and a 6-iron that he
thought was good all the way until the crowd groaned.
He blasted out over the green, putted up the slope to 5 feet and
missed the bogey putt.
”I played so well all day, and you know, one hiccup on 17 cost
me the tournament,” he said.
Justin Rose closed with a 68 and tied for third with David Toms
and Marc Leishman, who needed to win to get into the Masters.
Tiger Woods, a six-time winner at Bay Hill, was poised for a
second straight top 10 until he made bogey from the bunker on the
17th and hit his approach into the water on No. 18 for double bogey
and a 72. In his final tournament before the Masters, Woods tied
for 24th, seven shots behind. Phil Mickelson dropped three shots on
the last five holes for a 73 to also finish in a tie for 24th.
Laird finished at 8-under 280, the highest winning score since
Ben Crenshaw shot 280 in 1993. Laird earned $1.08 million, and a
validation after tough playoff losses at The Barclays and in Las
Vegas late last year.
Spencer Levin, who played in the final group and started two
shots behind, shot 41 on the front nine and still was in the game
toward the end. He wound up with a 76 and tied for sixth.
Woods played a solid round until his bogey-double bogey finish.
Bay Hill completes a full year since his return from a sex scandal,
with not much to show for it – no wins, only three top 10s on the
PGA Tour and not once in serious contention on the back nine.
Such is the state of his game that the six-time Bay Hill winner
called this a ”very good week, and a week I needed to see.”
”It’s getting better every week I’ve played,” he said.