All that stood between Martin Laird and victory at Bay Hill were two putts from just inside 90 feet on the 18th hole, which didn't seem all that long considering what he had already overcome Sunday.
First came a stunning collapse that took him from a three-shot lead to a three-shot deficit in a span of seven holes. He was three shots behind when he walked off the 14th green, two shots ahead heading to the 17th.
Laird knocked the first putt up to 31/2 feet, then jabbed his fist when he rolled in the par putt to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla.
“That was a hell of a day,” Laird said. “That was a tough fight out there. It was a battle out there, but you know, it makes it even sweeter at the end when I got this trophy.”
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In the toughest final round on the PGA Tour this year, Laird made two birdies and two clutch pars at the end to close with a 3-over 75, the highest final round by a winner in the 33-year history at Bay Hill.
That two-putt par on the 18th was just enough for a one-shot victory over hard-luck Steve Marino, who lost three shots on two plugged lies in bunkers over the last four holes. Marino followed a double bogey on the par-3 17th with an all-or-nothing shot over the water at the flag to 8 feet on the last hole for birdie and a 72.
“You just cannot afford to (waste) shots in the final round — really, at any point in the tournament — if you want to win,” Marino said after his third close call this year. “Unfortunately on 17, that’s exactly what I did. It came back to bite me.”
Laird, a 28-year-old from Scotland who came to America to play college golf and never left, became the first European to win at Bay Hill.
“I never thought about not winning,” said Laird, who was 5-over par for the round after putting his approach to the 11th green in the water for a double bogey.
Laird won for the second time in his PGA Tour career.
“It really doesn’t get any better than to meet (Arnold Palmer) coming off as the champion of his tournament,” Laird said.
Sandra Gal won the Kia Classic to become the second German winner in LPGA Tour history, beating second-ranked Jiyai Shin with a 2-foot birdie putt on the final hole in suburban Los Angeles.
The 25-year-old Gal, a former University of Florida player, made the winning putt after Shin’s 5-foot birdie attempt caught the right edge and spun out. Gal closed with a 2-under 71 to finish at 16-under 276 on the Industry Hills Golf Club course at Pacific Palms.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie shot a 70 for a 12-under 268 total to win the Andalucia Open in Malaga, Spain, for his first European Tour victory since 2002. Former PGA Tour winner Brett Wetterich shot a 2-under 69 for a one-shot victory over amateur Andres Echavarria, a college senior at Florida, in the Nationwide Tour’s Louisiana Open in Broussard, La.