Martin Laird leads by two shots over Spencer Levin going into the final 18 holes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Laird hopes to draw from his past experiences to pull off his second victory on the PGA Tour. He’s now had the share of the 54-hole lead three times in his Tour career. In the last two, he eventually lost in a playoff — though there was little he could do when Jonathan Byrd made a walk-off ace at last year’s Justin Timberlake Open.
“I said after I won (in 2009), I believed that I was good enough to win, but I actually really didn’t know it,” admitted Laird in his presser on Saturday. “I mean, you really don’t know it until you do it. Obviously I got a lot of confidence out of winning in Vegas. Especially the way I did it, holing a nice putt on the last hole just to get in a playoff and then winning on I think the third playoff hole.
“But yeah, it’s it tough. Even after I won, I’ve had three or four chances where I’ve had really good chances to win and not done it. You know, it’s tough. You ask anyone; it’s very, very tough to win a golf tournament. Doesn’t matter where it is. And you know, I know that going into tomorrow.”
Laird has dominated on par-5s this week, which has given him an advantage and made all the difference. He’s posted birdie or better on the 12 par-5s he’s played so far, averaging the 4.17 strokes on them and ranking first in the field.
Spencer Levin, who has putted beautifully all week, is Laird’s closest competition. Levin has two top-ten finishes so far this year and looking for his first-career victory on the PGA Tour.
When I asked Spencer what the difference was between last year and this year, he wasn’t quite sure, but his dad and swing coach, Don Levin, had the answer. “His Sundays are better,” said Don on Thursday.
“My Sundays have been better this year,” said Spencer during his Saturday presser. “I haven’t had really a bad one yet, so that’s been nice. Last year, I was playing well a lot of the year like through the first three rounds, and I would mess up on Sundays and I think a lot of that had to do with I was kind of thinking about the money list. I think I was putting a lot of added stress on myself about that.
”This year now, I don’t have to worry about it. I’ve got my card locked.”
Meanwhile, Tiger Woods had an early tee time on Sunday, which seems to be turning into a trend. He’s bogey-free through 15 holes. He’s getting closer! He might be able to pull off another sneaky top-ten finish.
Now how about Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson or Steve Marino? They’re lurking behind Laird. Oh, I can’t forget about Marc Leishman, who has crept up the leaderboard and currently T3.
The expected gusts of 20-25 mph are nowhere to be seen yet. It’s been breezy so far today, but nothing crazy. Guys like Levin who generally play well in windy conditions are hoping it starts blowing.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind (if it did),” said Levin. “But it doesn’t matter — either way is fine.”
(AP Photo/John Raoux)