Interview: Martin Laird on his winning return, laughing off his PGA Tour ‘journeyman’ tag and why he avoids social media
Martin Laird doesn't do social media. Never has, never will. It meant that the Scot was completely unaware that he'd been described on Twitter on Monday as a "37-year-old journeyman".
That verdict was delivered on the back of him becoming a four-time PGA Tour winner, his second success in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas taking his career earnings on the US circuit close to $20 million. A journeyman?
"That's why I'm not on social media," Laird, laughing, told Scotland on Sunday in an exclusive interview. "It doesn't matter to me what that a person says. If they think that, that's good for them. He or she can say whatever they want. I know what I think, I know what I've done and that's all that matters."
His record does indeed speak for itself. After hitting the jackpot in Las Vegas for the first time in 2009, he then won the Arnold Palmer Invitational two years later before adding the Valero Texas Open in 2013. His latest success, worth $1.26 million, was secured in a field that included golf's man of the moment, Bryson DeChambeau, as well as some of the other talented young Americans taking the game by storm.
"I'm obviously extremely proud of that," said Laird of his title haul on the strongest circuit in golf. "It's not bad going at all. Especially now. The strength in depth, the level now is way higher than it was 10-13 years ago when I first got on tour.
"You can see that by the scores every week. It doesn't matter how hard the golf course is, it's often 20 or 20-something under you need to win every week. That never really used to be the case. Last week was the lowest cut in the PGA Tour's history as it fell at seven-under - that craziness. It used to be one or two-under that gave you a chance.
"It makes it even sweeter to know I can do it when all these young guys obviously know how to win at the age of 20, 21, 22. It's impressive. So, to be 37 and still be able to get it done makes me really quite proud."
Laird is back living in Denver, where his American dream started 20 years ago, when he arrived at Colorado State University to combine golf and marketing studies. His arrival home on Monday evening from Las Vegas is something he will always cherish after seeing what winning again meant to his two kids, six-year-old Jack and four-year-old Hannah.
"They came with my wife, Meagan, and picked me up at the airport and to see the excitement on their wee faces was amazing," said the Glaswegian. "It makes it even better. They weren't around for my first few wins and they kept asking me, 'daddy, when are you going to win another trophy? We want you to get another one'. I always said to them, 'I'm trying guys, it's not that easy', so to bring one home is amazing.
"But now the question is, 'daddy, when will it get here, how low will it take for them to ship it as we'd love to see it?' (laughing). They are a great age and they get it, too. They understand more about golf than most people you bump into. They wanted to watch a re-run with me after I'd got home and it was fun to sit on the sofa with them and go over it again."
After finding himself having to fight hard for a few seasons to hang on to his PGA Tour card, Laird is back in the fast lane and said he'd been delighted to put a smile on lots of faces last Sunday, including his mum and dad, Anne and Charles, in their adopted home in Fife.
"You know, it's probably a bit like winning the first time around as I am sure there are a lot of people surprised," he said, chuckling. "It's been a while and I've had so many nice messages from friends and family but also from people I first came across years ago. I've had emails and texts and you kind of forget that these people are still out there watching golf and following you after all these years.
"Obviously a lot of people enjoyed watching it last weekend and, with all that's going on in the world with the Covid-19 pandemic, it was nice to give some people a happy weekend. Especially in Scotland with some more restrictions having come in. Even if it was just for a day or two, it was nice to give them something to cheer about."
While his return to winning ways may have come out of the blue to most, Laird had laid down a plan just under a year ago aimed at re-igniting his career. Suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee and requiring surgery just before the PGA Tour's restart in June was a bit of a setback, but those competitive juices are flowing again now.
"In November-December last year, I made a commitment to get in better shape," he revealed. "I've been struggling with my game for a few years, I had a few niggling little injuries. I was at that point where it could go two ways: I could have decided not to do anything and see what happened or really try and give it another good go and see where that took me.
"It's been a lot of fun to do that and see the hard work pay off. Before we got shut down in March, I was in the last group in Puerto Rico and, though that didn't go the way I wanted, I felt my game was right there. Then I got off to a great start at The Players in the opening round only for that to be halted (as the coronavirus lockdown started).
"I didn't let what was a six-month break for me after my injury take my confidence away. I knew I had been playing well before we stopped. I knew coming back what I needed to do, what I needed to keep working on. I had been playing great. Me and my coach and my team had been talking about it. I'd been shooting some great numbers at home, but it just hadn't transferred over to tournaments.
"I knew it was coming and that was one thing I was really pleased and proud of. The last few weeks I had stayed really patient. Each week had gotten a little better. Even though I felt I should have finished higher over the last few weeks before Vegas, I didn't get down. I took all the positives as I knew I was on a steady path of improvement.
"I went to Vegas quietly confident. Obviously not thinking I was going there to win, but I knew it was a course I love, my game is in great shape and mentally I was in a really good spot.
"To go and play the most consistent four rounds of golf I've played probably in my career, I really took a lot out of it and on Sunday I really felt in control. I never felt I was out of it. I never felt panicked. I stayed really patient and it all paid off."
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