Scotland's Martin Laird fired a course record-equalling, final round of 63 to win the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio by two strokes from Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.
Laird had been struggling with his game in the early part of 2013 and came into this event a lowly 157th on the FedEx Cup rankings. But he turned things around and, with this victory, has moved into the top-20 on that list, and has secured a start at the US Masters.
"Golf's a funny game," he said. "It doesn't matter what you did two weeks ago, it turns round pretty quickly."
Billy Horschel of the USA led coming into the final round and Laird was four strokes back. But the Scot opened with five birdies in his first eight holes. When he holed a seven-footer on the eighth hole, he tied Horschel at the top of the leaderboard.
Horschel couldn't match the low scoring of his rivals on the final day and he closed with a 71 to drop back into a tie for third.
It was Rory McIlroy who emerged as Laird's closest challenger. The young Northern Irishman's decision to add this tournament to his pre-Masters schedule was vindicated by his final round of 66. He birdied four of the last six holes to pile on the pressure.
"I feel like my game's in really good shape going into next week," he said. "A round like that gives me a nice bit of confidence."
But there would be no denying Laird. He closed with three straight birdies, including a fabulous up-and-down from a fairway bunker on the 17th, to close the door on the field.
Jim Furyk missed a number of makeable putts earlier in his round that could have given him a chance to contend. He looked like finishing just inside the top-10 until he holed out from 100 yards on the final hole for an eagle three. That moved him into a tie for third with Billy Horschel and Charley Hoffman.
Valero Texas Open TPC San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas Apr 4-7, purse $6,200,000 par 72
1 Martin Laird (Sco) 70 71 70 63 274 $1,116,000 2 Rory McIlroy (NIR) 72 67 71 66 276 $669,600 T3 Jim Furyk (USA) 69 70 69 69 277 $322,400 T3 Charley Hoffman (USA) 71 67 70 69 277 $322,400 T3 Billy Horschel (USA) 68 68 70 71 277 $322,400 6 K.J. Choi (Kor) 72 67 72 68 279 $223,200 T7 Daniel Summerhays (USA) 69 69 73 69 280 $193,233 T7 Bob Estes (USA) 72 69 69 70 280 $193,233 T7 Jeff Overton (USA) 69 72 70 69 280 $193,233 T10 Martin Flores (USA) 71 72 70 68 281 $155,000 T10 Padraig Harrington (Ire) 68 73 70 70 281 $155,000 T10 Marcel Siem (Ger) 76 67 69 69 281 $155,000
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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