LAS VEGAS – They say luck’s a fortune in Las Vegas but skill can certainly get you further.
Martin Laird showcased a brilliant combination of both as he claimed his second Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, outlasting Matthew Wolff and Austin Cook in a playoff at TPC Summerlin.
Playing on a sponsor’s exemption as he returns from knee surgery, the Scotsman earned his fourth PGA TOUR win by getting the ultimate redemption on a hole that perhaps owed him some luck. It was his first title in over seven years.
Chasing back-to-back wins after winning in 2009 (ironically in a three-man playoff), Laird joined Cameron Percy and Jonathan Byrd in extra holes in 2010. When they reached the par-3 17th he had to just stand in disbelief when Byrd made a hole-in-one to win the tournament.
A decade later he would face the hole in sudden death against two others again. This time there was no ace but Laird did send a 22-foot, 11-inch birdie putt home after the other two players had missed their own chances to claim the win.
“When I sit back and think about it, this win might go right to the top just because it’s been a while,” Laird said. “I had a bunch of life changes since my last win. Now I’ve got a couple kids who kept asking me when I was going to win the trophy. It’s going to be nice to take a trophy home for them this time.”
“I’m unbelievably excited to have pulled that off today… you have some doubts at times whether you’re going to get another one. I just played so well all week this week tee to green; was probably the best I ever played. Just felt in control really all week. To see that putt go in on that hole, it was pretty special.”
His winning putt wasn’t the only drama he faced on the infamous hole on Sunday. He came to it in regulation with a one shot lead but flailed his tee shot on the breeze and it went miles right onto a hill normally reserved for spectators. It left a tricky pitch from a downslope, over a cart path, through trees with water behind the green.
The 37-year-old pulled off a magnificent shot to find the putting surface and then buried a 17-foot, 11-inch par putt. It was the longest putt he made all day Sunday (in regulation) and provided a buffer he needed when he was unable to get up and down on the 72nd hole for the win and was sent to extras.
“That hole owed me one,” Laird admitted. “To make that putt on 17 honestly was huge in regulation, and then to roll that putt in there to close it out, I mean, obviously it’s pretty special.”
Unbelievably it might not have been his best shot of the day. Earlier Laird was looking to push his early advantage on the par-5 9th hole, going for the green in two. His ball sailed on a great line only to come up fractions short, cannoning into the upper lip of a bunker where it stayed, seemingly buried and dead.
But with an awkward stance and the putrid lie to deal with Laird would not only extricate the ball exceptionally, he would hole out the shot for an eagle. It was the third straight day he’d eagled the hole.
“That second shot… if it flies another foot it’s an unbelievable 3-wood. It was a really bad break but it was almost lying so badly that I said to my buddy, this is lying so badly if I hit this as hard as I want it’s not going to go very far,” Laird explained.
“Obviously I wasn’t planning on holing it… but I was hopeful of getting inside maybe ten feet if it came out pretty good. I hit it hard as I could. The sand exploded and I couldn’t see anything, and I managed to open my eyes up as the ball landed and it started tracking. I enjoyed being down to the level of the bunker and watching that one go in. I’m not going to lie.”
Laird joins Jim Furyk and Kevin Na as multiple time winners of the event and won’t need sponsor invites for a while having secured full status and a further two seasons after this one. He moved to fourth in the FedExCup with the win.
Wolff has now finished runner up in his last two starts, falling to Bryson DeChambeau at the U.S. Open before this week.
“Game is at an all-time high. I have a lot of the confidence carrying into the next two weeks and then the Masters, so looking forward to what’s next,” the 21-year-old young star said.
“My game has progressed amazingly and at pace that if you would’ve told me I would’ve been pretty amazed by it. I’m just looking to maybe get a win soon… I’m feeling like I can go out there and win any week now. Maybe a win is due sometime soon. But if I just keep on doing this, I’m sure it’ll come.”
LAS VEGAS — Tied for the lead going into the weekend, Patrick Cantlay already was four shots behind before he hit his opening tee shot Saturday in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
That didn’t bother him in the least. He knows what to expect at the TPC Summerlin.
A tee shot so far left on the 10th hole that he had to hit a provisional? That made him a little anxious, but only until he found his original, hit wedge to 4 feet for birdie and began his climb back to where he started.
When the third round ended, Cantlay and Martin Laird (pictured) each had a 6-under 65 without making it look terribly special and were tied for the lead. Both got their first PGA Tour victory at this tournament. Both have lost in a playoff. Both have played it enough times to realize birdie opportunities are there for everyone.
U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau was among the exceptions.
He had a pair of double bogeys and back-to-back bogeys, all before he reached the seventh hole. At that point he was 5 over in a five-hole stretch, which he said felt more like 12 over on a course like the TPC Sumerlin. He rallied enough for a 71, though he was seven shots behind and had 30 players in front of him.
“Yeah, it was really weird,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s golf, right?”
Those 30 players ahead of him starts with Cantlay and Laird at 20-under 193.
“I’m sure by the time I get to the golf course the lead will already be more than 20 under, which is what it’s going to be around here,” Cantlay said. “I think my strategy out here is to stay patient because I know there are so many birdie opportunities instead of pressing or feeling like I’m trailing, and realize that they’re out there if I hit good shots.”
Laird had one exciting moment when he holed a 50-foot eagle putt on No. 9. Otherwise, it was attacking flags when he could and playing for the fat of the green when it was too risky. Some wind late in the day made it a little tougher, but the scoring average still was 67.5.
“I have had good rounds every day, so I’m not going to change anything,” Laird said. “It’s been working and I’m in a good spot, so just keep going.”
Matthew Wolff got it started early. After making the cut with one shot to spare, Wolff had three eagles in a five-hole stretch and had to settle for pars on his final two holes for a 61.
Making three eagles at Summerlin is not unusual with a few short par 4s and all the par 5s easily reachable. Wolff, however, holed out on No. 11 from 116 yards. He drove the green on the 301-yard 15th hole to 15 feet and holed an 18-foot eagle putt on the par-5 13th.
He never really considered 59 because he was only 2 under on the front. He played the back in 8-under 28.
“If you only shoot 2 under on the front you feel like you never have a chance to shoot 59,” he said.
Wolff posted his 18-under 195 right as the last group was starting the third round, and it held until Laird was the first to get to 19 under with a birdie on the 13th.
Wyndham Clark (65), Brian Harman (67) and Austin Cool (67) also were at 195.
Na had a 64 and was three shots behind along with Will Zalatoris, who has a chance to earn special temporary membership with a strong finish Sunday. He already is leading the Korn Ferry Tour points list.
Cantlay picked up birdies where he expects to except on the short par-4 seventh, where his drive was hung out to the right and found a bunker, leaving a 70-yard sand shot that he did well to get within 12 feet for a two-putt par.
He expects to birdie the 10th, but not after hitting a provisional off the tee.
“I was hoping that it would be somewhat OK over there and I could make a par,” he said of his original tee shot. “Fortunately, it wasn’t that bad and I was able to hit a great shot, so that was a bonus.”
DeChambeau, playing for the last time before the Masters on Nov. 12-15, did too much damage early on to recover. A wild tee shot on No. 2 led to double bogey, and while he missed the fairway badly on No. 6, what led to the double bogey was a three-putt from 12 feet.
Four straight birdies on No. 8 steadied him — he nearly drove the 419-yard 10th — but not enough. He failed to convert on the short par-4 15th and dropped another shot coming in.
“Didn’t really hit bad shots, just didn’t go where I wanted to,” DeChambeau said. “Went into some really bad places and unfortunately didn’t save par from them. Just stuff didn’t go my way today, and it’s OK. Not a big deal.”
LAS VEGAS — Patrick Cantlay has played the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open so well that he wasn’t the least bit concerned when he was stuck in neutral Friday. Four straight birdies later, he was right up at the top again.
Cantlay ran off four straight birdies at the midway point of his round and got up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 ninth to cap off a 6-under 65 and be part of a five-way for the lead going into the weekend in Las Vegas.
Martin Laird hit his second shot into 4 feet for eagle on his closing hole at the ninth for a 63. Peter Malnati, runner-up last week in Mississippi, made a 15-footer for eagle from the fringe on No. 9 to close out his 62.
They joined Cantlay at 14-under 128, along with Brian Harman (63) and Austin Cook (65).
U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, who opened with a 62, was one shot behind with a round Cantlay could appreciate. Ground can be made up quickly at the TPC Summerlin.
DeChambeau drove the green on the 380-yard seventh for the second straight day, and this time he converted the eagle putt. Still, he was 1 under for his round and out of the top 10 until he made birdie on the 15th hole and then hit a 367-yard drive on the par-5 16th, setting up a wedge to 10 feet for eagle. Just like that, he had a 67 and was right in the mix.
“Any time you’re near the lead in a PGA TOUR event I’m excited. There is no doubt about it,” DeChambeau said. “I definitely left some shots out there as I made a few great shots, so can’t be too displeased with that, and look forwards to hitting a couple more shots better and making a few putts that I need to that I didn’t middle of the round.”
Cantlay won this tournament for his first PGA TOUR title in 2017. He was runner-up to DeChambeau the following year, and lost in a playoff to Kevin Na last year. He expects to play well, and that showed early on in his round when he was even par through six holes and losing ground.
“You need to make so many birdies, and I’m just used to it out here,” Cantlay said. “It never feels like I’m stressing because it feels like there are so many birdie holes. It actually allows me to be patient.”
He went into a back bunker on No. 11, his second hole of the round, and missed a 10-foot par putt. On the 15th hole, a par 4 that played at only 284 yards Friday, he drove into a right bunker and didn’t reach the green, having to scramble for par on the second-easiest hole at the TPC Summerlin.
At that point, he was even for his round. And then he two-putted for birdie on the 16th, and had wedges to 10 feet and 15 feet for birdies, and hit a flip wedge to 4 feet on No. 1. Just like that, he was on his way.
Laird poured it on late. He was 2 under on the back nine, and then played the front nine in 30 with four birdies and his short eagle putt on his final hole.
“I hit 5-iron and I didn’t think I could get it there,” Laird said. “But to that pine, if you’re 5 yards short of the green it’s a pretty straightforward chip up the green. And as soon as I hit it, I just got it absolutely right and I said to my caddie, `That’s as good as I got. Let’s see if it gets there.’ It landed perfect, skipped up to about 4 feet. It was a nice way to finish.”
Sergio Garcia (64) and the resurgent Stewart Cink (63), who began the new season by winning the Safeway Open for his first title since he won the Open at Turnberry in 2009, were among those two shots behind.
Garcia is coming off a victory in the Sanderson Farms Championship, his first on the PGA TOUR since the 2017 Masters.
“Earlier in the year I felt like I was playing as well as I’ve been playing the last week and-a-half, just things weren’t really happening,” Garcia said. “So obviously it’s a combination of playing well, confidence, couple good breaks when you need them at the right time that keeps your round going, and that’s what I did.”
Headed the opposite direction was Rickie Fowler, who missed the cut for the fourth time since golf returned in June. Fowler hit two shots in the water on the par-5 16th and made a triple-bogey 8. On the next hole, he hit his tee shot in the water on the par 3 and made double bogey. He shot 74.
Francesco Molinari, in his first competition since golf shut down in March, returned with rounds of 70-68. In Las Vegas, on this course, that meant missing the cut.
The cut was at 7-under 135. It was the lowest score to par to make the cut on the PGA TOUR since 1970
Among the victims were PGA champion Collin Morikawa, who didn’t miss a cut in his first 23 PGA TOUR events as a pro. He now has missed three in his last nine starts, though that stretch includes winning a major.
LAS VEGAS – Cameron Champ smashed his drive on the par-5 ninth at TPC Summerlin, turned to Bryson DeChambeau and said, “there … that’s all I got Bryson,” before giving him a fist bump.
“Yeah that will roll,” DeChambeau quipped as both had a chuckle.
And roll it did. A further four yards past DeChambeau’s 353-yard bomb. Between the two of them, and a third power hitter in Matthew Wolff, the trio displayed how to muscle your way around a golf course during the opening round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Between them they hit 28 drives of more than 300 yards. But DeChambeau also showed how to add finesse.
The recent U.S. Open champion continued where he left off at Winged Foot with an eye-opening 9-under 62 to pace the morning wave. His round featured five occasions where he had a putter in his hand looking to make eagle – on all three par fives and two par fours. He didn’t connect on any of them but kicked in those five birdies, plus four more.
“That’s the advantage of power in this game now, that you can do those sorts of things … I didn’t make any of them, but it makes it easy. That’s five birdies right there and it makes the golf course a lot easier,” DeChambeau said afterwards.
“I would say that lowers the par to 67 out here, and that’s just the number for me. If I shoot 69 or 70 I feel like I shot a couple over.”
Technically DeChambeau hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens while needing just 29 putts. He gained over two shots on the field on the greens and almost three shots off the tee. He also casually shot a 59 in the Pro-am on Wednesday.
For the record, Champ shot 67 and Wolff 68. But Champ was focusing on the final drive when the two did media interviews within earshot of each other.
“I was swinging the driver good all day, (and on nine) I was like, you know what, let’s just see (if I can get him), and just mess around and it was more of a joke afterwards,” Champ grinned.
“I got him but he would have flown me by probably 20 yards … but I got him on the roll, so there’s a difference, there’s a difference.”
Two seasons ago Champ was number one on TOUR in driving distance but DeChambeau relegated him to number two last season after his hulking transformation.
“I got it past him a couple times, he got it past me a couple times and I’m going to try and hit it harder tomorrow,” DeChambeau joked right back.
Champ plays a low bullet ball flight while DeChambeau plays a high ball, or “moon ball” game as he calls it. Whatever you call it, it is impressive.
“It was fun, it was awesome to play with all of them … amazing to see the power that’s out here now. I think that’s a testament to the new generation that’s coming up and what it’s going to be like in the future,” DeChambeau said.
As is habit for the seven-time TOUR winner DeChambeau was looking to get to the range post round after claiming he “heel thinned” a number of shots. But he had to make a few stops first. He was flagged for a random drug test and also had to find fellow competitor Chesson Hadley.
Hadley was part of the group ahead and was standing over a three-foot putt on the par-4 seventh hole when DeChambeau’s tee shot bounded out of the rough and on to the putting surface behind him. The green is obscured from the tee as a dogleg left but DeChambeau cut the corner. According to ShotLink records he is the first player to ever drive that green.
“I felt incredibly bad about that, I had no idea that they were on the green. They were ahead of us all day and I felt like they were off the green because of the time that we took on a few of the holes before that,” DeChambeau said.
“So that was my mistake and I felt really bad. I think it was Chesson, I have got to go find him and apologize … but it was fun to hit it to 15 feet.”
Hadley wasn’t concerned by the incident.
“The only thing that was hurt was my ego. I’m glad I made the putt though because if I missed it would have totally been his fault,” Hadley laughed in jest.
That kind of shoulder shrugging laugh is kind of all anyone can do right now as DeChambeau continues to crush the ball and make more than his fair share of putts. If he continues to do it over the next three rounds he will prove near impossible to beat.
“When I’m playing great golf I feel like I’ve got a great chance to win every week,” DeChambeau said. “I feel like I have my golf swing under control and am making a lot of putts. I feel like I can shoot low on a lot of golf courses and usually that wins tournaments.”
Yes. It usually does.