LAS VEGAS – The third time proved to be the charm for Martin Laird.
After failing to end matters on the 72nd hole and then again on the first playoff hole, Laird knocked in a 23-foot putt for birdie on the second extra hole to win the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Sunday’s fading light at TPC Summerlin.
Laird, who shared the overnight lead and led by three at the turn, made an astounding par on the 17th hole in regulation to protect his one-shot lead but missed his par attempt on the 72nd home from 28 feet and headed to a playoff against Austin Cook and Matthew Wolff.
On the first extra hole at the par-4 18th, Laird had a chance to end the tournament but his attempt from 31 feet just grazed the hole. But after Cook and Wolff both missed their birdie attempts on the 195-yard par-3 17th, Laird rolled in his winner.
It was his first win in seven years and his second Shriners title; in 2009, he won in a playoff here on the 18th hole. He has four PGA Tour titles. Laird, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, will certainly move up from his ranking of 358 in the world.
“It’s been a while, so I’ve been working hard. Seven years since my last one,” Laird said. “Probably feel like now my game is really as good as it has been. Been playing well the last few weeks; just haven’t had the results.
“But I love it here. I’m going to really enjoy this one. I can’t wait to go back and see my kids and my wife and celebrate with them.”
Laird (68), Cook (66) and Wolff (66) ended regulation at 23-under 261.
“Overall this is the best finish in three years since the win,” Cook said of his 2017 victory in the RMC Classic. “Game is on the right track. It’s kind of an emotional day. It’s been such a grind to get back here. Just being back in the moment, I loved it, and I can’t wait to do it again.”
Wolff, 21, was trying to become the youngest multiple winner on the PGA Tour since Sergio Garcia in 2001. Wolff had three eagles in a five-hole stretch en route to a 61 in the third round and eagle the 16th Sunday to give himself a chance.
Abraham Ancer closed with a 67 to finish fourth, three shots back. Peter Malnati (66), Will Zalatoris (69) and James Hahn (68) tied for fifth, four shots back. It was Hahn’s third consecutive top-10 to start the season.
In a group in a tie for eighth five shots back were reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau (66) and Patrick Cantlay (73). Cantlay, who won here in 2017 and finished runner-up the past two years, was trying to join Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Gary Player as the only players in the last 60 years to finish first or second in the same tournament in four consecutive years.
Laird owes much of his Shriners this year to the par-5, 558-yard ninth. In the last round, from a plugged lie in a bunker from 22 feet, he took a mighty swing and somehow knocked it in for eagle. He had also eagled the ninth in the third and second rounds and made birdie in the first round. That’s 7 under on one hole.
Laird also wouldn’t have made it to the winner’s circle without his magician-type work on the 17th hole. After he disappointingly three-putted the par-5 16th for par, his tee shot on 17 hit a car path and ended 100 feet to the right of the hole.
From a patchy lie, with trees in his way and water just past the putting surface, he pitched to 18 feet and then rolled in the putt for par.
“That was one of my better ever up-and-downs,” Laird said.
Three holes later, the same hole paid off again.
The victory ended a weird stretch for Laird. He was playing a ton of golf, practicing all out and counting down the days until the PGA Tour returned after a break due to COVID. The week before the Tour restarted, however, his left knee went out. Instead of joining his colleagues when the Tour returned in June after being dark for 13 weeks, Laird was having knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and then spending time recuperating on his coach in his home in Colorado.
“It was pretty hard for a couple weeks, not going to lie,” Laird said.
While he still can’t squat and has to take a knee with his right leg to read putts, he stood tall with the championship hardware in his hands.
“Feel like a bit of an old man out here doing that,” he said.
He’s feeling a lot younger now.
“I made a conscious effort to be patient,” Laird said about his return after knee surgery. “Sometimes you come back and just want to be playing great right away. I knew it would be a process. Every week I’ve been trending, every week I’ve played I felt like I played a little better, got a little sharper.
“Putting has been getting a little better. I knew it was trending the right direction and I was coming to a course I love. I’m unbelievably excited to have pulled that off today. It’s been a while since my last one, and you have some doubts at times whether you’re going to get another one.
“To see that putt go in on that hole, I mean, it was pretty special.”