Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009 | 7:29 p.m.
- Local golfer leads headed into final day of Vegas PGA tourney (10-17-2009)
- 2007 champ still in running at charity golf tourney (10-17-2009)
- Locals looking strong in Vegas PGA Tournament (10-16-2009)
- Last year’s champ in charity golf tourney ousted (10-16-2009)
- Bonanza grad two shots off lead at PGA charity tourney (10-15-2009)
- Kodak Challenge adds to competition at charity golf tourney (10-15-2009)
- Celebs hit the links at Justin Timberlake charity tourney (10-15-2009)
- Justin Timberlake tees off charity events ahead of tourney (10-12-2009)
- Coverage of the 2008 tournament
Martin Laird spread out his arms as far as he could and sported a grin almost as wide Sunday after he sunk a birdie putt to win the 2009 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin.
Laird, a second-year PGA Tour player from Glasgow, Scotland, outlasted former champion George McNeill and UNLV graduate Chad Campbell in a playoff to win the first tournament of his career.
“I was standing there thinking, you know, is this all really happening right now,” Laird said. “I was out there and I felt great all day.”
It all came so close to never happening for Laird. As last year’s PGA Tour season wound down, it looked like Laird would finish out of the top 125 in the money list and lose his tour card.
Laird, however, rallied and played well in his last five events of the year. He finished exactly 125th on the money list, meaning he was the final player to earn an automatic exemption for 2009.
“It worked for me last year, not really paying attention to where I was on the money list,” Laird said. “And it’s worked again for me this year.”
Entering this week’s tournament, Laird was in a similar position. He was ranked 135th on the money list and needed a strong showing to once again retain his card.
After four days at TPC Summerlin, Laird is 62nd on the money list and $756,000 richer.
He entered Sunday’s final round one stroke back at 16-under. Laird shot a 3-under 68 Sunday to force a sudden death playoff with Campbell and McNeill at 19-under overall.
“I was nervous the last two or three holes of regulation,” Laird said. “Once I got into the playoff, I kind of relaxed a little more.”
Laird’s calm demeanor proved to be invaluable as the playoff stretched to three holes. All three players parred the initial hole, the 18th, in the playoff with relative ease.
Laird, McNeill and Campbell headed to the 17th, a downhill 196-yard par 3 considered one of the course’s toughest holes, for the second playoff.
Both Laird, who bogeyed the hole in regulation in the same situation, and Campbell drove their tee shots over the hole. McNeill’s ball landed about 20 feet short of the pin, but he failed to convert on what would have been a tournament-winning birdie putt.
Laird chipped on the green and made par. Campbell, whose name the gallery chanted as he walked the course in the playoff, two-putted for bogey and was eliminated.
“I was able to hang around and make some putts and make some birdies to get myself in position and get myself into the playoff,” Campbell said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get it done.”
Down one player, Laird and McNeill headed back to 18 for a third try. Laird connected on a picturesque drive down the middle of the fairway, while McNeill pulled his ball into the rough.
McNeill’s next shot landed an inch from the water hazard and he was forced to chip on to the hole with one foot in the water. He missed a par putt moments before Laird made his 10-foot birdie putt.
“It’s golf,” McNeill said. “It happens. That’s just the way it is.”
For the fifth straight year in Las Vegas’ PGA Tour event, a player won his first tournament. Laird planned to celebrate accordingly.
“It’s going to be big,” Laird said. “I can’t tell you what it’s going to be, but I will have a headache for a few days.”