Martin Laird’s life changed dramatically after he made a 12-foot putt to win the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on the third hole of a three-way playoff in October at TPC Summerlin.
The former Colorado Star standout’s first PGA Tour win instilled in him the confidence to let his game grow, and he enters next week’s Tour Championship with a legitimate shot to win the FedEx Cup and walk away with $10 million.
“Winning here gave me a sense of belonging,” Laird said Tuesday at TPC Summerlin, where he helped promote this year’s Shriners Open, which will be Oct. 21 to 24. “It’s done so much for my confidence.
“When I came here last year, I wasn’t playing well. I was outside the top 125 and was worried about keeping my (PGA Tour) card. But I had a good week, and it changed everything.
”It’s amazing how one week can open up so many doors.”
Laird hasn’t won since, though he came close last month at the Barclays when he holed out a putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with eventual winner Matt Kuchar.
Laird has three top-10 finishes this year and sits ninth in the FedEx Cup standings, with his immediate future secure thanks to earnings of $1,639,528 in 2010.
“I felt really confident at the Barclays,” Laird said. “I started out the year playing really well, but then I had trouble for three or four months with my short game. I worked with Dave Stockton Jr., and he simplified my routine and it’s all started to click again.
“If someone had told me a year ago I’d be No. 9 in the FedEx Cup, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
Laird is looking forward to bolstering his resume at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, then trying to repeat in Las Vegas.
“I think this course fits my game well,” he said of TPC Summerlin. “I killed the par 5s last year, and that’s the key to winning. I’d like to end the streak of first-time winners and win the title again.”
The last person to repeat in Las Vegas was Jim Furyk, who won in 1998 and 1999.
Laird, who is from Scotland, was passed over for the European team in next month’s Ryder Cup, but he wasn’t disappointed.
“I’m OK with it,” Laird said. “If I had played well throughout the year, maybe I would be upset. But I wasn’t as consistent as I needed to be.
“There will be other opportunities. The main thing for me is that I’m improving each year. I don’t set any individual goals for myself. As long as I keep getting better every year, that’s good enough for me because I know I’ll have opportunities to be successful.”
Maybe successful enough to win $10 million next weekend.
“If I play well, I know I have a chance,” Laird said. “To be honest, the money is a bit frightening to think about.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913.