PARAMUS, NJ - If Martin Laird had won the 2010 Barclays, it would have been as a result of his six-under-par round of 65 on Saturday.
But unfortunately for Laird, very few golf tournaments are won on Saturday.
The 2010 Barclays was yet another reminder that golf tournaments are rarely decided before the back nine on Sunday.
Some may say that eventual winner Matt Kuchar was the beneficiary of yet another Sunday meltdown on the PGA Tour, and there may be some truth to that. After all, Laird did three-putt the 72nd hole from 23 feet, while holding a one-stroke lead.
“I feel bad for Martin,” Kuchar said after capturing his second victory in two years. “You don't want to win with a guy three-putting the last hole. I'm glad we got going in a playoff and I made birdie to win. It's never a scenario where you'd like to win on a bogey.”
But Kuchar also demonstrated that the age old tactic of posting a number on Sunday and letting that number wreak havoc on the minds of those attempting to beat it can still be quite effective.
While guys like Laird, Dustin Johnson, and Jason Day were grinding away, Kuchar swooped in and posted a final round 66, which brought him to 12-under-par for the tournament.
At the time, 12-under-par didn’t seem like it would be enough.
However, add in Sunday afternoon pressure, five times the number of FedEx Cup points and more cameras and commotion with each additional hole played, and 12-under-par was indeed enough.
For Laird, that unwanted guest known as pressure began rearing its ugly head on the 17th green.
After two beautiful three woods on the par-five 17th, Laird was left with 24 feet for eagle and simple two-putt for birdie.
Although Laird would make birdie on the hole, it was anything but simple. He sent his first putt seven feet past the hole and was forced to make a tremendous putt coming back to save birdie and take a one-stroke lead to the 72nd hole.
“I was kind of battling all day, and probably holed two or three of the biggest putts I've probably ever holed just to be even where I was,” Laird said after his round.
Laird pulled his tee shot into the thick left rough on the 18th and hit a great shot just to get the ball onto the back-edge of the green.
On 17, Laird was faced with two putts from 24 feet to take a one-stroke lead into the final hole, now on 18 Laird was left with two putts from 23 feet to win the first playoff event of the FedEx Cup series.
This time, however, the nerves got the best of him.
Laird once again shot his birdie putt seven feet past the hole, and he was unable to convert on his par attempt.
Laird’s bogey on 18 tied him with Kuchar at 272 for the tournament, thus forcing a sudden death playoff.
On the first playoff hole (the 18th at Ridgewood Country Club), Kuchar pulled his tee shot into the left rough while Laird pushed his tee shot right.
What happened next was something no one would have expected.
Kuchar punched his ball out of the thick rough towards the right side of the green. The ball slowed down, caught a ridge and began slowly rolling closer and closer to the hole before coming to rest a mere 30 inches from the cup.
“I ran it up to that back right bank and saw the crowd just all of a sudden, the momentum building and they went just like a wave of people standing up and cheering, Kuchar said. “I knew it was getting good.”
“Good” was the understatement of the year to describe what could very well have been the shot of the year on the PGA Tour.
Over in the right rough, all Laird could do was smile and admire what Kuchar had just done.
“You know, you gotta smile,” Laird said. “You can't do anything about that. He hit a great shot.”
Laird hit his approach shot to around 40 feet, and was able to two-putt for par, only it was too little too late as a few moments later Kuchar tapped in for birdie and The Barclays title.
“There's nothing like the feeling of winning a PGA Tour golf tournament,” Kuchar would later say. “You feel like you are the best player in the world for this week.”
Kuchar now has 10 top-10 finishes and a win in 2010. He’s earned over $4.2 million and now sits atop the FedEx Cup point standings. All of these accomplishments put Kuchar on a short list of potential PGA Tour Player of the Year candidates, although Kuchar didn’t want to hear anything about that.
“That's a topic that I'd like to be as humble as I could be over,” was all Kuchar would say about his chances of being named the 2010 PGA Tour Player of The Year.
Kuchar may or may not be named PGA Tour Player of The Year, but he was certainly right about one thing—he was indeed the best player in the world last week at Ridgewood Country Club.