Richard Green shoots 64 for 1-shot lead over Martin Laird in Scottish Open

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Green’s 64 leads Laird by 1 shot at Scottish Open

LUSS, Scotland — Martin Laird finally came home and put on quite a show Thursday in the Scottish Open, twice chipping in for birdie on his way to a 6-under 65 that left him one shot behind Richard Green after the opening round at Loch Lomond.

Laird was born in Glasgow and would stand outside the ropes at Loch Lomond, dreaming of a career in golf.

He just never imagined it would take such a curious route. He was recruited to play college golf at Colorado State and went straight to Q-school, where he earned a Nationwide Tour card. He advanced to the PGA Tour last year and played well enough to keep his card.

But he had never played as a pro in Scotland, or any European Tour event, until Thursday.

“I couldn’t wait to play today and I couldn’t really go to sleep last night,” he said. “I was ready to go, and once I got out here and started warming up, I was excited and ready to go.”

His grandparents, who live across the country in Fife, watched him play for the first time. So did his parents, his girlfriend and an uncle, giving him more fans than he gets in America. Laird delivered a bogey-free round that included consecutive birdies at the end to join a crowd atop the leaderboard.

“A dream start,” he said.

Green was thankful his start wasn’t a nightmare. The left-hander from Australia had shown good form coming to the final event before the British Open, with top 10s in Wales, Germany and France. His swing deserted him during the pro-am Wednesday, however, and he spent nearly two hours on the range until he felt it had returned.

Green was satisfied after hitting a 3-wood from 250 yards to 35 feet on the par-5 13th, and the eagle putt that followed. That sent him to a 64 and a one-shot lead over Laird, Paul McGinley, Graeme Storm and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

“It’s never a long way away,” Green said. “But I’m pleased I’ve worked it out a bit.”

Adam Scott was miles away from a game that put him as high as No. 3 in the world, although he appears headed in the right direction, too. With tennis star Ana Ivanovic watching in the gallery, Scott played bogey-free and opened with a 66.

“It was the golf I remember playing myself … once,” Scott said with a grin.

Buick Invitational winner Nick Watney had the best score among a strong contingent of PGA Tour regulars at Loch Lomond, opening with a 67. John Daly, who continues to play most of his golf in Europe after his six-month suspension on the PGA Tour was lifted, threatened to join the leaders until three bogeys on the back nine dropped him to a 69.

Also at 69 were Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy and Camilo Villegas, all of whom played in the afternoon in breezy conditions.

Laird’s career is so obscure that a local radio reporter asked the 28-year-old Scot what had taken him so long to contest at a European Tour event. Laird smiled and replied, “It’s my first one.”

Aside from his family, not many knew who he was because of his time in America.

“I wouldn’t say I came over here with the mindset that I’m going to show everyone how good I am,” Laird said. “I knew I could play well and I wanted to come over here and hopefully play we as well as I could and see where I finished. My game is getting closer.”

When someone asked how it would feel to win here — which would make him eligible for the British Open next week at Turnberry — Laird was quick to put his dream day into perspective.

Yes, he had a 65, but that included chipping in on the par-3 11th and the par-4 16th, a short game that hid some suspect iron play.

“I got lucky today,” he said. “It was absolutely perfect.”

DIVOTS: The European Tour announced an alliance with the Asian Tour in which they will work together on TV and marketing endeavors under a group called “EurAsia Golf.” More than anything, it sent a message that Europe and Asia are together, leaving little room for negotiations with the new OneAsia tour. … In his first tournament since knighthood, Sir Nick Faldo opened with a 71. … Rory McIlroy is allowing fans on his Web site choose his clothing for the week, all of which will be tartans. McIlroy opened with a 68.

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