SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Martin Laird never gave up his lead Saturday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t sweat a bit.
Laird relied on some clutch putting down the stretch, and after a 3-under 68 he will carry a three-shot lead into the final round at TPC Scottsdale in search of his fourth PGA Tour win.
“Today was a little bit of everything,” Laird said. “Hit some of the best shots I have had all week, and also hit some of the worst shots. It’s always nice when you’re making some putts, and I poured in a few nice ones today.”
Laird began the day with a two-shot lead and built his advantage to three on the back nine. A drive into the water led to a bogey on No. 15, though, and Laird was facing the prospect of back-to-back bogeys after finding the greenside bunker at No. 16.
The Scot poured in a nine-foot par putt with an estimated two feet of break, then holed another nine-footer for par at No. 18. He also added a 26-foot bogey save at No. 5 after taking an unplayable lie and a 47-foot bomb for a birdie on No. 11.
“I putted solid the first two days. I didn’t really miss any I felt like I should have made, I just didn’t really make any,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been putting really well, and it’s one of those things, just keep doing what you’re doing and one day it’s going to get good and go in. That just happened to be today for me.”
A win Sunday would extend an odd trend for Laird, whose previous three wins all came in odd-numbered years. His first victory came at the 2009 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, followed by the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational and the 2013 Valero Texas Open.
“I mean, it’s not like after I win I take the next year off and don’t practice,” Laird said. “It’s just hard to win and, you know, just happened to be it’s been every two years for me.”
This is the second time Laird has held a lead this wraparound season, as he also topped the standings at the halfway point of the Frys.com Open in October. There he faltered over the weekend before finishing T-3, a result for which the Scottsdale resident is eager to atone.
“That was the first tournament in a while where I really felt like I kind of let one go. I had a great chance to win, and then didn’t play great on Sunday or really on the weekend,” he said. “I have been practicing hard and getting ready. I really like this stretch of tournaments I’ve got here, and obviously like playing at home and being here. I was looking forward to this week.”