Laird wins at Bay Hill

2011-03-28 07:11

Orlando - Scotsman Martin Laird won the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday despite struggling to a three-over par 75 in the final round, becoming the first European champion in 33 Bay Hill events.

Two weeks before Laird makes his Masters debut at the year's first major championship, the 28-year-old from Glasgow birdied the 15th and 16th holes and sank two tense par putts to capture the $1.08 million top prize by one stroke.

Laird was 5-over through 11 holes and lost the lead to American Steve Marino, but he made back-to-back birdies to reclaim the lead, sank a five-foot par putt at 17 and a four-footer at 18 to finish 72 holes on eight-under par 280.

"I've had perseverance all week and it paid off," Laird said.

The Scotsman's final-round score was the largest last-day score ever for a Bay Hill winner and the highest final-round by any US PGA Tour winner since South Africa's Trevor Immelman fired a last-day 75 to capture the 2008 Masters.

Laird completed a stellar day for Scottish golfers after countryman Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open winner, won the European Tour's Andalucian Open to end his nine-year victory drought.

Laird, who led the field by two and Marino by four when the day began, did not lose hope after finding the water at 11 and taking a double bogey.

"I said, 'I've got two par-5s left and I've been killing them all week,'" he said.

Laird's only prior US title came in 2009 at Las Vegas.

Marino enjoyed a two-stroke lead with four holes to play but a bogey at the 15th and double bogey five at 17 dropped him one stroke back of Laird.

Moments later, Laird dropped an 18-foot birdie putt at the 16th to boost his lead to two strokes.

Marino answered the challenge by sinking an eight-foot birdie at the 18th hole to seize the clubhouse lead and pull within a stroke of Laird, who sank the testy pars to deny Marino his first PGA crown.

"It's pretty disappointing," Marino said. "I'm pretty bummed out about what happened at 17. I'm glad I birdied 18 to give myself a chance."