Martin Laird needed two putts from just inside 90 feet on the 18th hole, for victory at Bay Hill which didn’t seem all that long considering what he already had been through 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 as he headed to the 17th tee.
Laird knocked the first putt up to 3 1/2 feet, then jabbed his fist when he rolled in the par putt to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
In the toughest final round on the PGA Tour this year, Laird was strong at the end with two birdies and two clutch pars 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.
Laird, a 28-year-old who came to America to play college golf and never left, became the first European to win at Bay Hill. He now heads off to the Masters for the first major of the year, having felt like he just won one.
Laird needed some help from Marino, who played beautifully until the last four holes.
Marino went at the flag on the 15th, tucked right behind the bunker, and his ball plugged in the soft sand. He blasted out to 35 feet and made bogey. Then came the 17th, and a 6-iron that he thought was good all the way until the crowd groaned.
He blasted out over the green, putted up the slope to 5 feet and missed the bogey putt.
Justin Rose closed with a 68 and tied for third with David Toms and Marc Leishman, who needed to win to get into the Masters.
Tiger Woods, a six-time winner at Bay Hill, was poised for a second straight top 10 until he made bogey from the bunker on the 17th and hit his approach into the water on No. 18 for double bogey and a 72. In his final tournament before the Masters, Woods tied for 24th, seven shots behind. Phil Mickelson dropped three shots on the last five holes for a 73 to also finish in a tie for 24th.
Sandra Gal won the Kia Classic on Sunday to become the second German winner in LPGA history, beating second-ranked Jiyai Shin with a 2-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
The 25-year-old Gal 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. She set up the winning birdie with a wedge shot on the par-5 18th.
Shin, an eight-time winner on the LPGA, finished with a 73.
Cristie Kerr shot a 66 to tie for third with I.K. Kim at 11 under.
Top-ranked Yani Tseng and Na Yeon Choi were 9 under, and Michelle Wie was another stroke back along with Marcy Hart and Mindy Kim .
Shin took a one-stroke lead over Gal into the final round, but dropped two strokes back with three bogeys on the front nine. The South Korean pulled even on the par-3 13th, making a birdie while Gal had her lone bogey of the day.
Shin took a one-stroke lead with a birdie on the par-3 15th, and Gal countered with a birdie on the par-4 16th to set up the finish. On 18, Gal’s wedge shot hit past the hole and spun back, nearly going in the hole.
LAWRIE WINS ANDALUCIAN OPEN
Paul Lawrie won the Andalucian Open on Sunday for his first European Tour victory since 2002 and sixth overall after holding off Johan Edfors of Sweden by one stroke.
The 42-year-old Lawrie shot an even-par 70 for a 12-under 268 total and become the oldest golfer to win the event.
The 1999 British Open winner hit only one bogey in the first three rounds, but bogeyed three of his first five holes Sunday before recovering with four birdies on the back nine.
Edfors shot a 68, including a bogey on the 15th.
Kenneth Ferrie began the day one stroke behind Lawrie, the overnight leader, after tying the European Tour record with a 60 in the third round. But the Englishman shot a 75 on Sunday to finish at 274.
WETTERICH WINS THE LOUISIANA OPENPGA Tour winner Brett Wetterich won the Nationwide Tour’s Louisiana Open for the second time, closing with a 2-under 69 on Sunday for a one-stroke victory over University of Florida senior Andres Echavarria.
The 37-year-old Wetterich, the 2006 Byron Nelson Championship winner, finished at 13-under 271 at Le Triomphe Country Club. Also, the 2003 Louisiana Open, he earned $90,000 for this third Nationwide title.
Echavarria, from Colombia, shot a 67. Bubba Dickerson was third at 11 under, and John Kimbell , Carl Paulson and Rich Barcelo followed at 10 under.
Wetterich had 14 birdies and two pars on four par 5s.
IN OTHER NEWSTwo-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer had surgery on his left thumb and will miss the next two months, ending his streak of 27 consecutive appearances at Augusta National.
Langer sustained the fluke injury six months ago while riding his bike to the beach, and it never properly healed.
Langer, who has missed the cut the last five times at the Masters, won his first green jacket in 1985, and returned to Augusta Natioinal the following year as No. 1 in the world when the world ranking was first published. He won his second Masters in 1993.
He said he still plans to attend the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night and be at the Masters for other obligations.
Michelle Wie has been too busy with finals at Stanford to have a problem with the LPGA Tour’s light early schedule.
She found time to play this weekend at the Kia Classic.
Wie won the Canadian Women’s Open last season for her second LPGA Tour title. She has played two of the first three events this year, finishing second last month in the season-opening event in Thailand and 40th the following week in Singapore.
Wie is a Kia endorser and played the Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms for the first time.
“It’s pretty tough,” Wie said. “It’s a good golf course. It’s tricky.”
The tournament is the tour’s first in the Los Angeles area in six years. Last year at La Costa in Carlsbad, Hee Kyung Seo won her first LPGA Tour title, beating Inbee Park by six strokes.
The top 14 players in the world ranking were in the field, led by No. 1 Yani Tseng. She won in Thailand and has three other worldwide victories this year.
When she finally learned her friends were safe in tsunami-flattened Sendai, she resolved to join her fellow Japanese players in helping their homeland’s recovery while still pursuing their careers.
Ai Miyazato, Momoku Ueda and Mika Miyazato are returning to the LPGA Tour this week at the Kia Classic in suburban Los Angeles. They announced plans Tuesday to channel their grief into disaster relief through a fundraising website and a supportive logo to wear in upcoming tournaments.
The three players have paid to set up a fundraising site for a nonprofit relief organization, and they’re hoping their fellow pros will join them in wearing the self-designed buttons with Japanese characters reading: “Never Give Up Japan.”
Of course there’s not much Poulter can do about his day job.
“Occupational hazard,” said Poulter, who had several recent allergy tests to try to combat the situation. “Spending seven hours a day on the golf course with grass and trees is obviously what I’m allergic to. So that’s pretty difficult.”
It could be worse in two weeks at the Masters, where pollen is notoriously bad in the spring. As a result, Poulter will likely get an antihistamine injection before he gets to Augusta National.
In the meantime, he’ll try to win for the first time since last year’s World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Not having won on the PGA TOUR since then has certainly bothered Poulter, who is playing at Bay Hill for the first time since 2009.
Woods launched a mobile application Wednesday called, “Tiger Woods: My Swing,” for the iPhone and iPod touch geared toward helping golfers of all skill levels improve through video analysis and instruction.
The cost is $9.99, which is significantly higher than other such applications but Woods said his share of the proceeds go toward the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Woods said he would not have done the app except that it benefits his foundation, specifically with college scholarships.
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