Britain’s Martin Laird sank a 22-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole Sunday to win his first US PGA title in seven years at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
The 37-year-old Scotsman made a bogey on the 72nd hole to fall into a playoff with Americans Matthew Wolff and Austin Cook, but responded by curling in the clutch putt at the par-3 17th hole to capture the title.
“It has been a while,” Laird said. “I’ve been working hard. I feel like my game is as good as it has been. Obviously I’m really going to enjoy this one.”
World number 351 Laird, who has battled through a knee injury to continue his career, took his fourth US PGA title after wins at the 2009 Shriners, Bay Hill in 2011 and the 2013 Texas Open.
“It’s amazing,” Laird said. “I love this place. I’ve played well here. Always enjoy coming back here.
“Since my last win, I’ve struggled with my game at times. Not getting any younger out here with all these kids, so I’ve really been working hard and wanted to see what I can still do.
“I’m really proud how I played this week.”
Laird, Cook and Wolff all finished 72 holes on 23-under 261 at TPC of Summerlin in suburban Las Vegas to set up the event’s third playoff in four years, which began with all three parring the 18th hole.
On the second extra hole, Wolff came up short from 38 feet and Cook went long from 25, setting the stage for Laird to become the first winner playing on a sponsor exemption since Wolff last year at Minneapolis.
“Thanks to Shriners for that,” said Laird, now set for events through the 2022-23 PGA campaign.
US Open runner-up Wolff, 21, missed a chance to become the youngest multiple winner on the PGA Tour since Sergio Garcia in 2001.
Clinging to a one-stroke lead in the final round, Laird sent his tee shot right of the cart path at the par-3 17th, trees blocking him from the green and water lurking beyond it.
The Scotsman punched the ball under the trees, between bunkers and onto the green, then curled in an 18-foot par putt for an epic up-and-down.
– ‘It was pretty special’ –
Laird, who made a bogey at 18 in his 2009 Shriners win to fall into a playoff, did the same thing again.
This time, his approach went right of the green and he pitched to 28 feet, then two-putted for bogey to set up extra holes. Laird finished on 68 with Cook and Wolff on 66.
“To make that huge par putt I did on 17 in regulation, and then really nearly make two in a row on 18 and then make that (winning putt), it’s really nice that the putter saved me coming down the stretch and won it for me,” Laird said.
Laird made birdie putts from 12 feet at the sixth and 15 feet at the seventh and answered a bogey at the par-3 eighth with an eagle at the par-5 ninth, holing out from 20 feet out of a buried greenside bunker lie.
“A shot I’ll always remember,” Laird said. “It was pretty special.”
After opening the back nine with a bogey, Laird birdied the par-5 13th and curled in a 16-foot birdie putt at the par-4 15th to reach 24-under and grab a short-lived two-shot lead.
Seconds later, Cook curled in a 39-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th and Wolff followed moments later by sinking a nine-foot eagle putt at the par-5 16th, staying on Laird’s heels to set up the closing drama.