PGA Tour
Laird becomes first European to win at Bay Hill



Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Scotland's Martin Laird recovered from a difficult opening 11 holes Sunday to shoot three-over 75 and win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one stroke.

Laird finished his second PGA Tour win at eight-under-par 280 and became the first European to win this event. He held onto the 54-hole lead for the first time in three tries on the PGA Tour.

"I was thinking about those tournaments out there and I didn't want to let this one go," Laird said in a televised interview of the two 54-hole leads he lost.

There were three non-American winners at Bay Hill Club and Lodge prior to Laird, but none were from Europe.

"I didn't know that until this morning. That's huge," Laird said when asked if he knew that no Europeans had won this event. "I didn't know the Americans had dominated so much."

Steve Marino led by two on the back nine, but bogeyed the 15th and double- bogeyed the 17th. He managed to birdie the last to take second at minus-seven after a closing 72.

Former PGA champion David Toms (72), Justin Rose (68) and Marc Leishman (71) shared third place at six-under-par 282.

Tiger Woods, a six-time winner of this event, closed bogey, double-bogey to shoot even-par 72 on Sunday. Prior to that, Woods had an unblemished round.

Woods birdied the par-five fourth to move to two-under. After five straight pars, he birdied the 10th before parring his next five holes. Woods two-putted for birdie on the par-five 16th to get to four-under.

At the 17th, Woods found sand off the tee and blasted to four feet, but he missed the par putt. Woods dumped his approach shot in the water at the 18th en route to a closing double-bogey.

"I played well all day and the best shot I hit all day was on 17," stated Woods. "I hit three water balls this week and a few missed putts here and there, and I'm not that far behind. Add all that together, you can't afford to make those mistakes."

The even-par round of 72 left Woods tied for 24th at one-under-par 287. Among the five players tied with Woods was 1997 winner Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson had a bogey and three birdies through 10 holes. He faltered to three bogeys in a four-hole span from the 14th to slide back to minus-one as he posted a one-over 73 on Sunday.

Laird entered the final round with the lead for the third time in his PGA Tour career. The previous two times, he lost in playoffs.

After the first 11 holes, Laird looked be out of contention again. He bogeyed the third, seventh and ninth to make the turn at minus-eight. Laird was one behind Marino at that point.

Laird dropped even further back on No. 11, where his second found water, leading to a double-bogey that left Laird at minus-six.

"I wouldn't say I was totally panicking, but I was getting a little worried," Laird admitted in a television interview. "The only thing that saved me was right after 11 was a par-five and I could get a shot back.

"I said to my caddie, I've got two par-fives left and I've been getting them all week, and he pointed to my putter and said you've also got this thing so we're not out of it. And he wasn't lying."

Marino, playing in the group ahead of Laird, birdied the sixth, but gave that shot right back on the seventh. Marino poured in a 23-footer for birdie on nine and made it two in a row with a four-foot birdie putt at 10.

That gave him a share of the lead, then Laird fell one back with his bogey on nine. Marino parred four straight to remain two ahead.

Laird followed his double-bogey with a two-putt birdie on the par-five 12th. He dropped a shot on 14, but 15 proved to be another turning point.

Marino's second shot plugged in a bunker. He blasted to 34 feet and two-putted for bogey before Laird drained a 22-footer for birdie and a two-shot swing. He was one back, but that wouldn't last long.

As Marino was making a mess of the 17th, Laird dropped in a 17-foot birdie effort on 16 to move back to minus-eight.

Marino found sand off the tee on 17, then three-putted for a double-bogey. He was two back, but wouldn't go quietly. With the pin tucked in the right corner on 18, Marino hit his approach eight feet right off the hole and converted that birdie try to get back within one.

Laird two-putted for par from the fringe on 17, but left himself a long birdie effort at the last. The Scotsman knocked his approach at the last to 87 feet. He rolled that just inside four feet and sank the par-saving putt for the win.

The win for Laird was his third straight top-10 finish. He shared 10th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and tied for fifth last week at the Transitions Championship.

Marino, who shared second place at the Sony Open in Hawaii, was denied his first tour title.

"If I had to do it all over again, I would love to have played that 17th hole differently," Marino admitted. "I thought I hit a really good shot in there. I thought it was going to be good and came up short in the bunker and then plugged."

NOTES: Laird earned $1.08 million for the victory...There was 19 sub-par rounds on Sunday, while there were 25 rounds of 75 or worse...Ernie Els, the 2010 champion, struggled to a six-over 78 to slide into a share of 70th at 10- over-par 298...The tour heads to Texas next week for the Houston Open, where Anthony Kim is slated to defend his title.