Las Vegas, Nevada (August 30, 2010)–As they say, any publicity is good publicity, and the 2010 Barclays, the first tournament in the four-event FedEx Cup Playoffs, was terrific publicity for Las Vegas' PGA Tour event, the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Martin Laird, the 2009 Las Vegas champ, played in the final group, and was one seven-foot putt away from vaulting into the top spot in the point standings. Unfortunately, his 24th putt of the day slid right, dropping him into a playoff with Matt Kuchar, who made a birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Laird.–By Brian Hurlburt.
"Its great to see Martin play well, especially at this time of year and on that type of stage," says JT Shriners Open Tournament Director Adam Sperling. "Obviously, he didn't get the result that he wanted, but he still played well enough to fill up his schedule over the next few weeks. It will be great to see him return in October to defend his title with his game in top form." Tournament week for the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open is October 18-24, with the pros playing the private TPC Summerlin again. Last year, Laird bested hometown here Chad Campbell, a former UNLV golfer, and George Mcneil, a former Las Vegas champ, in a playoff to win his first PGA Tour title. The sister course to TPC Summerlin is the resort TPC Las Vegas, where many of the local tour pros play and practice in preparation for the PGA Tour.
"My goal is just to get better every year," said Laird this week. "That's the only (goal) I really set. I don't have any specific ones … even from my first year on Nationwide Tour, I played terrible, lost my card. Next year I finished top 25. As you said, barely kept my card. Won last year out here. (I am) getting more comfortable. Learning a lot more. My short game was what held me back in the past. Definitely this week it's probably the strongest point in my game. And that's — that's the thing you learn quickly playing on the PGA TOUR. It's all about from 50, 60 yards in if you want to be the top of the leader boards." Laird jumped into contention with a third-round 65, but managed only a 71 on Sunday, which allowed Kuchar to catch him when Laird three-putted the 18th hole (for putts 23-25 on the day). Watching the Barlcays event unfold greenside was Laird's fiance, Megan Franks, who was also at the Las Vegas tournament last year.
But the high finish still pushed Laird from 95th to third in the FedEx Cup points standings. Laird tried to use a tough putt he made last year in Las Vegas to get into the playoff as inspiration for his putt on Sunday. "I holed about 10, 11-footer on the last hole in Vegas to get into the playoff, (so) I said to myself, 'You've done this before, you can do it again,'" said Laird following the tough loss. "As I said was putting good all day. And I hit it where I wanted to. I would probably be pretty frustrated right now if I had hit a poor putt or pushed or pulled it. I just misread it. I don't know if it bounced or anything but it definitely didn't break and I just hit it outside the hole on right." Laird's first putt was from 25-feet above the hole, a tough spot. He commented that he didn't want to leave that first putt short, but he misjudged the speed.
The JT Shriners Open management is also enjoying some fine play of its own, so to speak. In the last few weeks, several big announcements have come from Sperling and the group. Big news came when MGM Resorts International came on board as the Wednesday Celebrity Pro-Am sponsor, and that was a couple weeks after it was announced that Las Vegas resident and former UNLV golfer Charley Hoffman would be holding a Monday Pro-Am. Also recently announced was that football Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith would be playing as a celebrity in the Wednesday event, with more announcements to come soon on other big names.