Martin Laird has spent the last six months on the driving range looking for answers to his struggling game.
The Scottish golfer finally found what he was looking for, and then some on Sunday — winning the Texas Open with a final-round 9-under par 63 to overcome a resurgent Rory McIlroy and some of the world’s best along the way.
Laird, who entered the week 161st on the money list, tied the course record with his bogey-free effort. He punctuated the overall 14-under effort with birdies on the final three holes, earning a trip to next week’s Masters and plenty of confidence in a recent swing change along the way.
“I came in here quietly confident, even though my record this year has been poor to say the least,” Laird said. “But golf’s a funny game; doesn’t matter what you did two weeks ago. It turns around pretty quickly.”
The win was Laird’s third on the PGA Tour, his first since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2011.
He entered the week having missed four of eight cuts this year following a swing change last September, including a missed cut at last week’s Houston Open. However, he shot a second-round 65 in that event after a four-hour range session — providing plenty of confidence that his game was finally starting to come together.
It did just that Sunday, and how.
Laird began the day four shots behind leader Billy Horschel, but he birdied five of his first eight holes to immediately jump into contention. His 7-foot birdie putt on No. 8 — one of only 22 putts in the round — put him into a tie with Horschel at 10 under.
He then held off a hard-charging McIlroy over the last few holes, including a stunning up-and-down for birdie out of the fairway bunker and off the fringe on No. 17. He capped the win with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.