Defending champ Laird takes Las Vegas lead


Justin Timberlake SHC Open

LAS VEGAS – Defending champion Martin Laird of Scotland shot a bogey-free 8-under 63 – eagling the short par-4 15th and closing with three pars – to take a one-stroke lead over Jonathan Byrd on Saturday in the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open.

Laird, who shot a 62 on Friday after opening with a 69, made an 8-foot putt on the 310-yard 15th after driving the green.

“I really left myself the easiest putt on the green,” Laird said. “It was a right edge, up the hill putt. That’s the one most of us would want if we had 6 feet for eagle.”

Last year, Laird won the event for his first PGA Tour title, beating George McNeill with a birdie on the third hole of a playoff. Chad Campbell was eliminated on the second extra hole.

“It’s completely different because last year it was probably the best chance I’ve had to date to win a tournament and I was 134th or something on the money list,” said Laird, 43rd on the money list this season. “So there was a lot more pressure on me last year than this year. It’s definitely a little more relaxed week than last year, knowing that I’ve had a good year so far, and I don’t have to worry about playing to keep my card.”

Laird, a playoff loser to Matt Kuchar in The Barclays this year, had a 19-under 194 total on the rain-softened course in the fourth of five Fall Series events.

“It’s been a good three days and, even after only shooting 2 under the first day, I was pretty confident that I could post three low ones in a row to get back in contention,” Laird said. “I maybe didn’t think I’d post 17 under the next two rounds, but I’m pleased obviously where I am and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

“Any time you shoot 62 you’ve got to feel pretty good after it. I was just pleased to finally make some putts because I hit it just as good

Byrd shot a 66. Australia’s Cameron Percy had a career-best 62, making eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey, to join Webb Simpson (64) at 17 under. Simpson had 10 birdies and two bogeys.

Percy, a 36-year-old rookie, is 185th on the money list with the final top 125 earning full status for next year.

Cameron Beckman (64) and Spencer Levin (66) were tied for fifth at 15 under.