Tue, Apr 09, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Laird earns Masters spot with narrow win over McIlroy

AFP, SAN ANTONIO, Texas

Martin Laird punched his ticket to The Masters by firing a closing round of nine-under 63 to capture the PGA Tour’s Texas Open by two strokes on Sunday.

The 30-year-old Scotsman matched the course record and snapped a US win streak on the PGA Tour that dates back to last season.

Rory McIlroy got within one stroke of the lead when he birdied the 14th hole, but the Northern Irishman ended two back at minus-12 after a final-round 66.

Laird, who entered the day five shots adrift of the leader, rolled in birdies on his final three holes on Sunday at the TPC San Antonio.

“I felt really good coming here because I like this golf course. I played well here a couple of years ago,” said Laird, who finished his third PGA Tour victory at 14-under 274. “I wanted to stay aggressive. Finally, in a final round my putter got hot. I can’t believe it.”

Laird also earned his third consecutive trip to The Masters. He tied for 20th in 2011 and shared 57th last year in his previous Augusta efforts.

The US’ Jim Furyk holed out for eagle on the par-five 18th for a three-under 69.

He shared third place at 11-under with third-round leader Billy Horschel (71) and Charley Hoffman (69), who birdied six of his final eight holes.

This marks the first time that the Texas Open has served as the final Masters tune-up, with the winner getting a free pass into Augusta.

Laird’s victory also snapped a streak of US winners on the PGA Tour that dated to October last year.

On Friday last week, the tournament got some added firepower when McIlroy decided to join the field, which featured eight former major winners and four of the top 15 in the world.

World No. 2 McIlroy finished two shots back of Laird to post his best finish of the year.

“I think over the last three rounds I eliminated the stupid mistakes and mental errors,” McIlroy said. “To finish this tournament with a round like today is great going into Augusta. I am really pleased with my game, this has been a great week for me.”

McIlroy birdied the par-five second hole and then had two consecutive birdies just before the turn on the eighth and ninth. He caught fire on the back nine with four more birdies over his last seven holes, including the par-five 18. He also had two bogeys in the round.

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