Martin Laird's Comeback Secures Victory at Bay Hill; Bubba Long at 5th Hole

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IMarch 27, 2011

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27:  Martin Laird of Scotland proudly holds the trophy after the final round of the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at the Bay Hill Lodge and Country Club on March 27, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

Kathy Bissell


Bay Hill Golf Course, Orlando, Florida—

Wind was supposed to be the story at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational on Sunday, where leaders fell back and challengers charged. But errors actually told the tale, and it seemed for a while that no one wanted to win.  Leaderboard whiplash set in.

First, the overnight leaders struggled.

Scottish player Martin Laird, who now lives in the U.S., started the day at -11. Three bogeys on the front nine put him at -8 and a double at the 11th dropped him out of the top spot.

Spencer Levin found trouble at the first hole, bogeyed it, and then added four more on the front side.  He fell out of contention for the rest of the round.

Justin Rose, who started the day nine back of the leaders, bogeyed the first, and then posted five birdies and an eagle to finish at -6, nearly two hours before the rest of the field.  

All others continued to have problems with the difficult course except Steve Marino and Australian Marc Leishman.

Leishman eagled the par five 16th hole to get to -7.  But a bogey at the 18th brought him to -6. 

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“I saw what was happening and knew I was a couple behind,” Leishman said after his round. “Just had a bit of slip up in the middle there with a double and bogeying the last, but that’s a pretty tough hold today.”

Steve Marino, whose best finish is a playoff loss at the 2008 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, inched his way to the top. He held the lead until the 17th when a fried egg lie in the green-side bunker caused him to double bogey.  It was his second plugged lie of the round.  He fell from -8 to -6.

“I said yesterday, you cannot afford to (throw away) shots like that,” he said afterwards. He was disappointed but headed to Augusta National on Monday.

At the 18th, Marino made a clutch eight-footer for birdie to go to -7, which knocked David Toms, Justin Rose and Marc Leishman out of the contest. He could only hope that Laird, who had a miracle comeback, would falter on the final hole.

Laird had dropped five shots during the round with water balls at the third and 11th. Then he crafted a turnaround with birdies at the 15th and 16th to bring him back to -8. A clutch putt on the 17th hole to save par there. 

At the 18th, Laird’s second shot left 86 feet between him and victory. He two-putted like he did it every week.

"It was a tough fight out there," Laird said after victory. "I pretty much hit it everywhere until the last four holes."

Amazing shots and scores:

One of the most amazing shots ever hit at the fifth hole at Bay Hill was made by Bubba Watson on Sunday.  He hit a 369-yard drive and was pin high to the left of the putting surface. The drive was into a hurting crosswind. Unfortunately, it lie in gallery-trampled grass, and he had to hit the ball harder than he would have liked to get it out. It went 28 feet beyond the hole.

Incredibly, Watson was not the only player to do it.  Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland all tried it and were able to hit just as far.  None of the four birdied the hole, and Woodland bogeyed it.  Woods' shot was 336 yards, short and right.  Johnson was 367, short of the green to the right and Woodland was 357 short and right. Thursday was quite windy though, and their shots may have been wind-aided. 

An unbelievable shot at the eighth hole was made by Rickie Fowler who was in the left fairway bunker.  The ball caromed over the green beyond the gallery, into a bush covered concrete wall that disguises the maintenance buildings.  The strike of the ball hitting concrete was almost like a firecracker. The wall was OB.  Fowler had to take stroke and distance and went back to the bunker to replay his shot.  He tripled the hole.

The round of the day was posted early by Edoardo Molinari.  He was -6 for the day coming to the 18th hole, which he bogeyed and finished at -2 for the tournament.   Molinari said after play that the keys to his round were that the wind did not pick up until about the 13th hole. He also increased the loft of his TaylorMade driver a little bit before play, and that helped him stay in the fairway.