Scotland’s Martin Laird fired a course-record 63 to become the first non-American winner this season on TOUR in winning the Valero Texas Open Sunday in San Antonio. Laird tied the tournament record on this course by posting 14-under-par 274 as he held off Rory McIlroy by two shots. The American trio of Billy Horschel, Jim Furyk and Charley Hoffman rounded out the top three by finishing one further back on 11-under 277. With this victory, Laird is now eligible to play in next week’s Masters.
Ok, so this season has been weird on a few notes. Michael Thompson shot 78-80 MC the week before he won. D.A. Points missed seven of nine cuts and his best finish of the year was T63 before he won. Martin Laird joins this club of strangeness as his best finish in 2013 was a T34. Before his victory today, he had pocketed exactly $69,200 on TOUR this year, good for 157th in the FedExCup race. Makes sense, right?
Martin Laird kicked off 2012 by finishing second twice and fifth once in his first 13 events. He had only two top 25 finishes in his final 10 events of last season and that form carried over to 2013. Laird had made over two million dollars the last three seasons but gamers have struggled to get a read on him in the last six months. Those of you that have hung on to him through the “thin” times were rewarded today. Don’t forget Laird finished T2 last year at THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP so he’s usually playing decent golf around this time of year.
Heading into this week, long putter and all, Laird was 167th in strokes gained-putting. Sunday, players could have made the argument on why this club should be banned as Laird was making everything en route to his bogey-free course-record 63. Ball-striking is usually his calling card as his length and accuracy off the tee helps him to also bang GIR. Laird was T9 in his only other appearance at the AT&T Oaks course so we can now put him in the “horse-for-course” category at Valero.
For the second week in a row, we put the FANTASY back into fantasy golf. Laird had exactly two rounds of his last 20 in the 60s heading into this week. Oh, and he missed the cut last week. Now, he’s packing his bag for Augusta and you and I are scratching our heads…
With this victory, Laird collects $1,116,000, 500 FedExCup points and a tee time next week on Magnolia Lane.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
There have been 15 tournaments on TOUR this season. This is the first one where a non-American has hoisted the trophy.
In 2013 10 of the 14 stroke-play events this season the 54-hole leader (or co-leader) has gone on to victory. This is the second week in a row where the 54-hole leaders have not held up their end of the bargain.
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods THRICE (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36) and now Laird (30). The young folks (30 and younger) have six victories; the 30-somethings now have seven victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have their two wins. This week’s “great hope” for the Old folks was Jim Furyk checking in at T3. So close. Not really.
Here’s the top 10 and we learned about them:
Rory McIlroy: After sputtering around level par for the first 27 holes of the tournament, folks were starting to wonder if playing was the best idea for McIlroy this week. His next nine holes, 32 (-4), propelled him easily into the weekend and his final 18 on Sunday, 66 (-6), reminded you why he’s a one of the favorites next week at the Masters. McIlroy cranked in 22 birdies this week and he looks like he’s playing himself into form. Remember, class is permanent; form is temporary. Nobody was beating Laird but Laird today but McIlroy should be encouraged by what he saw today for next week. He also reminded gamers why taking chalk on top-heavy weeks is the way to go.
Billy Horschel: Back-to-back superb finishes from young Horschel rewarded those of you, like me, who added him to the C group on Yahoo this week. Sure, this goes against the theory of playing the chalk in a top-heavy field but as I mentioned in my preview article, I was playing Horschel in an effort to catch lightning in a bottle. Caught. Horschel’s next phase of development will be learning how to close out Sundays when leading. He was just one-under but the guys who caught and passed him were 63 and 66 so he knows he still has to grind but find a way to make some birdies as well. I loved the fact that he made two birdies coming in, including one on the final hole, to keep his place on the podium. If you haven’t picked him up yet, I can’t see why not! He’s now made the cut in 21 straight events. He also has four top 10s in his last 17 events, including a T2, T3 and a solo third.
Jim Furyk: He jarred a field shot on No. 18 to crash the party at 11-under. Furyk struggled on the greens but his play on a course where he never had teed it up before was encouraging for two reasons: One, his game is rounding into shape as the “big boy” tournaments loom, and two, he’s still a very solid player on tough golf courses regardless of his finishing last year. I left him off Group B and am now regretting it. I won’t next year in San Antonio.
Charley Hoffman: In four starts at the AT&T Oaks Course, Hoffman has now finished T13, T2, T13 and T3. He loves this place and we should love Hoffman during this week next year! Sometimes, you just have to embrace the obvious!
K.J. Choi: The Westlake resident was all-or-nothing this week as he racked up rounds of even par on Thursday and Saturday but carded 67 on Friday and 68 on Sunday to finish T6 for the week. Choi’s best finish of 2013 was T9 in his second event, the Farmers Insurance Open, but he MC last time out at Bay Hill. After a miserable 2012, gamers will be excited to see two top 10s in his first nine events of this season.
Daniel Summerhays: Another ball-striker who was in the mix this week, Summerhays finishes T7 for his best finish since his solo fifth at The Greenbrier Classic last summer. He’s now made four cuts in a row after MC in four of his first six. This is first top 25 of the year so let’s not go overboard.
Jeff Overton: Hitting the top 10 for the second time in 2013, Overton and Hoffman will have the “what-ifs” tonight as they both lament their double bogey starts. Overton only made eight bogeys on the week on his way to T7. Peter Jacobsen mentioned on the coverage that Overton went back to playing an older set of irons last week as he finished T27 in Houston. He’s currently 21st in strokes gained-putting so the more greens he can hit, look out! I’ll have an eye on him as we move into the warmer weather.
Bob Estes: Back-to-back top 10s at Valero for the native Texan as he followed last year’s T4 with T7 in 2013. Not bad for an “old” guy at 47! He’s been on TOUR for 25 years so he should be comfortable putting his schedule together. He’s REALLY comfortable here as he played over 7,400 yards with exactly three bogeys and a double bogey. Keep an eye out for places where he plays well and he could help you in deep, weekly games.
Martin Flores: Similar to Martin Laird, somewhat ironically as they are both named Martin, Flores’ best finish on the season was also T34. He’s a native Texan as well and he can really putt. Well, usually. He was ninth in 2012 in strokes gained-putting but, as you can tell by his best finish this year, his putter has not been cooperating. He’s currently 91st. Another coincidence, like Summerhays, this was HIS best finish, T10, since he also played The Greenbrier Classic last summer where he finished sixth. Weird facts on a weird week…
Marcel Siem: You’ve heard my rule: Hot golf is hot golf no matter where in the world it’s being played. Siem won in Morocco last week and jetted over as a last-minute sponsor’s exemption for this week’s event. After a brutal opening round of 76, which included two doubles, Siem rallied to fire 11-under on the weekend. He only made four bogeys but a triple on No. 12 Sunday killed his chances to win this week and get in the Masters. Nice two weeks for the German, though!
Padraig Harrington: Another wily veteran, like Furyk, who never had seen this course, showed up this week with a T10 finish. Harrington, who is constantly tinkering with everything, was sporting eyeglasses on Sunday. Who knows what this means. I’ll pretend I didn’t see anything. This was Harrington’s first event since WGC-Cadillac Championship on March 10th so whatever he tinkered with over the last three weeks came to fruition. He needed to tinker because his last four starts were MC, MC, lost in the first round of WGC-Match Play at T39 at WGC-Cadillac. Get this: His two best finishes of 2013 are on courses he played for the first time. Again, weird facts this week.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
I take a look back at what happened to the chalk
Matt Kuchar: Ho-hum, another top 25 (T22) but not the payday most of us were looking for from the solid ball-striker. He made six bogeys and a double on the week so it looks like he’s on the right track for Augusta.
Ian Poulter: After making only six birdies in the first three rounds, Poulter closed with five on Sunday en route to posting his best round of the week, 69, to move up 23 places to T37. He’ll want to forget about his 75-74 Friday-Saturday combo but his eye tends to be on the bigger prizes.
Cameron Tringale: If you haven’t learned yet, I’m not the guy to follow for one-and-done unless you need a fade pick. Tringale made sure my streak of absolute rubbish continued. Hey, Mickelson, it’s probably YOU for the Masters so I would suggest just WD right now!
Freddie Jacobson: Whether it’s “Freddie” or “Fredrik” just remember that he’s money in the bank at this course. After finishing second in 2010, he’s backed that up with T5 in 2011 and T18 last year. His T15 this year was not a surprise and his 69 on Sunday should have helped Yahoo! gamers.
Charl Schwartzel: Three doubles on the week never let the South African get any momentum going but he still found some time to rack up 18 birdies. His weekend rounds of 70-70 were his two best of the week as he finished T22.
Peter Hanson: If his 78 on Saturday made you run for the hills, his 66 on Sunday to finish T22 (very popular this week) should make you come back to town. Remember, every village needs an idiot! Since my village already has one, don’t forget that Hanson was the leader at Augusta for a bit last year and plays well overall in the majors.
Jimmy Walker: Was he paired with Hanson on the weekend? He fired 76-67 to finish T31. He’s been playing awfully well in 2013 but the last two weeks have seen the BIG ROUND creep back into his game. It might be time to give him a rest. Stay tuned!
Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a live chat Wednesday at NOON ET at Rotoworld.com. We will be breaking down the field at the Masters, the first major of the season, and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.