Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
SCOTLAND’S Martin Laird ended a seven-year title drought when he holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole to claim the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. It came as he recovered from knee surgery.
Laird, who needed a sponsor exemption to play a tournament he won in 2009, returns to defend his title at TPC Summerlin.
He won with a birdie to beat Matthew Wolff and Austin Cook. It was the third three-man playoff in Las Vegas for Laird, who won in 2009 and lost the following year when Jonathan Byrd made a hole-in-one on the 17th hole at the TPC Summerlin.
He had a one-shot lead with two holes to play when he struck his tee shot on the par-three 17th 30 yards right of the green with the pin to the right. He hit a chip-and-run over a cart path, under the trees, between a pair of bunkers and then made an improbable par with an 18-foot putt.
But he missed the green to the right on the 18th and chipped to 30 feet, two-putting for bogey and a three-under 68 to fall into a playoff at 23-under 261 with Wolff and Cook, who each closed with a 66.
They all parred the 18th in the playoff, and then Laird ended it on the 17th with his birdie. Laird, at No. 358 in the world, became the third winner in four regular PGA Tour events to be ranked outside the top 300.
Laird knew it was going to be his day when he caught a buried lie near the lip of a bunker at the par-five ninth. He hit the ball and looked on in disbelief as the ball found the hole for an eagle that gave him a three-shot lead.
Cook closed to within one shot with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th and nearly repeated the feat on the closing hole. Wolff birdied the par-four 15th, hit a massive drive at the par-five 16h and holed out for an eagle.
Laird never lost the lead, though he was grinding to the finish line. He had to make a 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th, the easiest hole at TPC Summerlin. He played away from the flag and water on the par-5 16th to 70 feet and came up 15 feet short, leading to a three-putt par.
And then he made his great escape on the 17th after a tee shot off the cart path. A par on the 18th was all he needed for the victory, and he hung it out to the right, down to a collection area with a drain a yard in front of his ball.
Patrick Cantlay, who shared the 54-hole lead with Laird, was the biggest surprise of the day. Cantlay won the tournament in 2017 and was runner-up each of the last two years. Fourteen of his 15 rounds at the TPC Summerlin were under par. He opened with four bogeys in six holes and didn't make birdie until the 13th, closing with a 73.
Bryson DeChambeau closed with a 66, and that was the worst he could have done. With a helping wind, he played the par 5s on the back nine in 1 over. He also bogeyed the last from a bunker.
Abraham Ancer birdied the last two holes for a 67 to finish alone in fourth. Will Zalatoris closed with a 69 for a three-way tie for fifth.
Laird returns to defend his title but will have his work cut out for him. Among those lining up against him are Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama, and Patrick Reed.
Former US Open champion Webb Simpson, who has a decent record here, says: "I love playing in the Shriners because you have to think your way around this golf course. Other courses that we play, you don’t think. You hit driver and you hit it as far as you can.This golf course has doglegs, run-outs, bunkers. You really do have to think. I typically enjoy playing courses where you can hit driver, three wood, five wood on a lot of these holes."
It was won in 2015 by Smylie Kaufman, in 2016 by Rod Pampling, in 2017 by Patrick Cantlay, in 2018 by Bryson DeChambeau, in 2019 by Kevin Na and in 2020 by Martin Laird.
TPC Summerlin was first opened in 1991. It measures 7,255 yards and is located over 2,000 feet above sea level. It was designed by the delightfully named Bobby Weed, who carved it through the Nevada desert. It has many dog legs, water features, bunkers and mature trees.
Players to Follow:
Martin Laird. Good memories for the Scot
Webb Simpson. Has the game to win here
Rickie Fowler. Simply too good to keep struggling
Emiliano Grillo. When he’s good he’s really good
Kevin Streelman. Veteran who makes birdies for fun
Doc Redman. Keep your eye on this boy’s progress
Matthew Wolff. Needs a couple of big weeks to restore his confidence
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