Scotland’s Martin Laird led the PGA Championship at four-under with two holes to play, but even though two late bogeys pulled him back, he was still pleased with his start at Kiawah Island.
On a windy day, the lead wasn’t likely to get too far away from two-under anyway, and Laird reckoned that his purple patch of four birdies in a row in the middle of the back nine was a bonus too great not to enjoy.
Laird: ‘I got on a bit of a heater stretch’
“It doesn’t happen very often that you’re happy after two bogeys to finish, but today was one of those days,” he said. “I played really nicely, and I got on a bit of a heater stretch on the back nine when we turned into the wind.
“Really 13-14-15-16, birdies are not expected. You’re just trying to make pars on those holes, and you’re hitting four-irons in there – I think I hit four-iron on all but one hole on the back nine.
“But those holes are complete bonuses if you make birdies there, so even with those bogeys on the last two, I’m pretty happy.”
Laird’s putter was the weak link despite playing superbly tee to green at Augusta, and this time he was making them from 15 to 20 feet away.
“I made a lot of mid-range putts which you have to do here. Getting 15 to 20 feet from the flag is a really good shot,” he said. “I made seven birdies, and I went out with the mindset of not giving the course too much respect.
“I don’t think I bailed out anywhere where I thought I had a chance. You’re going to make bogeys on this course, it’s just too hard not to. To make seven birdies was really nice.”
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Laird nearly got away with his sole conservative shot of the day, when he intentionally went left at the long par three 17th to avoid the lake.
“I was aiming for the second left bunker, but went a bit further left,” he said. “I hit a good shot from the sand and lipped out from six feet. That was the only place I was conservative, apart from that I was going for the flags, within reason.”
‘I can still hit it head high’
Having spent most of his time since moving to the US in Colorado, Laird has developed a high ball flight not really suitable for windy seaside golf. But he hasn’t forgotten all his native habits.
“I can still hit it head high with the driver if I need to,” he said. “We worked a lot on bringing down my ball flight for this week, because the high cut is definitely not ideal for the wind here.
“In 2012, the Friday, it blew really hard and I shot two-over when the average was six or seven over. I kept it down nicely then as well.”
Bob heading back to his kip after a 75
Robert MacIntyre opened with a three-over 75, disappointed most in the double bogey six on the 18th – his ninth.
However, after a gruelling day on the Ocean Course, he knew exactly what he was going to be working on.
“My sleeping!” he said. “I’ve got to keep energy levels up after coming over here at the start of the week.
“It’s definitely in the top-two toughest courses I’ve played. There’s no let up, you miss anything and you’re in trouble. One bad shot I had on 18 and I got punished big-time, but that’s golf.”
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MacIntyre is still feeling confident about his prospects in the second round.
“I’m disappointed in the score, but I felt I played as good as I could have,” he said. “I only missed two fairways, so there’s still confidence to take from it.
“The driving was the most pleasing part. I struggled in practice with the wind, but Mike (Thomson, his caddie) was right on with the wind direction. It’s just the aim points are so difficult, because they change so much with the wind direction.
“But I drove it as well as I could. Downwind it was going miles, into the wind I had full control. I just didn’t hole many putts.”