Valero Texas Open: Martin Laird beat Rory McIlroy by two for third PGA Tour win
By Adam Norman. Last Updated: 08/04/13 1:46pm
Martin Laird booked his ticket to Augusta next week with a sensational final round of 63 to win the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio.
The Scot sat five shots behind overnight leader Billy Horschel at the start of the day but was quickly on the move with four birdies in the first six holes.
By contrast Horschel could not get it going after an early bogey and his lead was soon gobbled up by a chasing pack led by Laird and fellow Briton Rory McIlroy.
US unless stated
-14 M Laird (Sco)
-12 R McIlroy (NI)
-11 J Furyk
-11 B Horschel
-11 C Hoffman
-9 KJ Choi (S Kor)
Click here for collated scores
Another birdie at the eighth got Laird to -10 and his belly-putter remained hot throughout the day to deliver a third title on the US Tour.
Playing just in front of McIlroy, Laird was always a step ahead of his nearest rival and the closest the Northern Irishman got was when he birdied the long 14th to get within one.
But Laird picked up another shot at the 16th and then curled in another long putt at the next from off the green before laying up at the final hole, giving himself a 12-footer which he holed for a brilliant bogey-free round.
McIlroy also birdied the short 16th and the final hole to return a 66 to end the day two back, and undoubtedly in a better frame of mind than of late heading to the Masters next week.
But for Laird it was a remarkable turnaround in fortunes after a dismal start to the season that has seen him drop out of the world top-100.
"I felt really good coming here because I like this course, I just decided to stay aggressive and finally the putter got hot," he said.
"I've been asked a hundred times in the past few weeks if I'm in Augusta and every time I've had to say no it's hurt me a little bit after playing the last couple.
"That was my major motivation, to get back into tournaments like that this year."
The final group, consisting of Horschel, Jim Furyk and Charley Hoffman, all finished on 11-under-par in a tie for third place.
Furyk holed his pitch at the 18th for a round of 69 while Hoffman, who endured a torrid start to the day, birdied six of the last eight holes to bank a sizeable cheque.
But for Horschel, the wait for a maiden tour win goes on although he also birdied the final hole to bag a top-three finish for the second week in a row.
KJ Choi served notice that he could be a contender at the first Major of the year next week when he briefly threatened the lead before settling for a 68 in sixth place.