PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Martin Laird knew he was on the verge of something big.
'When I birdied No. 9, I knew I was right in there,' he said.
Beginning the final round of The Players Championship six back of leader Kevin Na, Laird nearly completed the biggest final-round comeback in Sawgrass history. Laird came up a couple of shots shy, however, shooting 5-under 67 to close in a share of second place with three other players.
'It was set up that, if you play good, you can shoot 5, 6 under, and, if you don't, you're going to shoot over par,' he said.
The Scot surged into a share of the lead with six birdies in 13 holes, including three in a row from Nos. 11 through 13. Justin Leonard in 1998 and Henrik Stenson three years ago managed to win from five behind on Sunday. Laird was in position to do one better.
'I knew I was right in the middle of it,' he said. 'I didn't have a specific number in my head but I knew if I shot 4, 5, 6 under, I would have a chance. It didn't mean I thought I was going to do it but that's where I wanted to go.'
A bogey at 14 derailed Laird's charge, but he recovered with a routine birdie at the par-5 16th. An efficient par at the 17th left him with a chance as he stood in the fairway at the last. Laird pulled his approach, however, leaving a perilous pitch to earn a must-have par. Handling the approach with care for the crosswind, he left seven feet to get up and down. He missed.
'I hit a great shot and I hit a good putt,' he said. 'Just misread it.'
In the end, Kuchar got him again. The newly minted Players champion took Laird down in a playoff at the 2010 Barclays. Having fought the Georgia Tech product down the stretch before, Laird knew Kuchar would be unflappable.
'He's just such an easy-going guy,' he said. 'That's obviously a good attitude to have when you're out here on Sunday on this golf course.'