Given some of the sorry, sodden summers we have endured in recent years, the sight of sun-seared, bone dry golf courses here in the cradle of the game is something of a shock to the system. Not many folk are complaining, mind you.
Gullane, the host venue for this week’s $7 million Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, almost resembles a yellow brick road and there will be a golfing wizard at the end of it come Sunday night.
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By all accounts, the course is playing so fast, some of the players are worried they’ll get a ticking off from the Local constabulary and a couple of points on their licence for speeding. For Scottish exile Martin Laird, the pilgrimage back to his homeland is a journey that is always savoured but the opportunity to test his mettle on a proper, fiery links has upped the ante on the anticipation front.
“I’m always excited to come back and play links golf but when you see it like this it makes me even more excited,” said the Glasgow man, who enjoyed a gentle hit about over the water at Lundin in Fife on his arrival from the USA.
It’s nearly a decade now since Laird made his breakthrough on the PGA Tour in 2008 as he became the first Scot to win on the US circuit since Sandy Lyle conquered Augusta 20 years earlier.
Laird, who reached a high of No 21 on the world rankings during that period of prosperity, has not tasted victory since 2013, the year he shared fifth in the Scottish Open, and he remains eager to end a barren spell that has been drier than the Scottish summer. And it’s not often you can say that.
A victory among his ain folk wouldn’t be a bad way to bridge the title gap. “For me it (victory here) would rank really highly, right behind the majors in terms of the titles you want to win,” said Laird, who now sits in 129th place on the global pecking order.
“The reason I come back every year and try to do it is because I just love it and if I was to win it would be one I would definitely look back on as one of the greatest, if not the absolute highlight of my career. If I didn’t win a major it would be the absolute peak that I’d relish the most.”
The change of golfing fare from the staple PGA Tour diet has whetted Laird’s appetite although the sheer firmness of the Gullane terrain has given the 35-year-old plenty of food for thought.
“I hit it so low when I first went over to the States but I don’t think when it’s this fast you want to hit it low because you literally can’t stop it,” he said.
“The only way you can have a hope of checking it is by bringing it in high and hoping it doesn’t get a downhill bounce. I was playing well at Muirfield (in the 2013 Open) when it was like this because I felt that hitting it high gave me an advantage when it gets this firm.
“If you hit it low with a seven iron you’ve no chance of stopping it at all, whereas if you can hit a big high one you’ve at least got half a chance on some of the holes.”
From being the lone bearer of the saltire on the PGA circuit, Laird has been overshadowed somewhat by the exploits of his compatriot Russell Knox in recent years.
Knox has arrived in East Lothian in a buoyant mood having won the Irish Open on Sunday and Laird is hoping he can also feed of the feel good factor generated by that Scottish success.
“I’d like to get in there and do what he’s been doing,” added Laird, who had a brace of top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour back in February but has not managed to replicate those encouraging results. “Russell winning in Ireland was brilliant and it’s encouraging for him and for me.
“I feel like I’m playing well even though my results haven’t been great these last few weeks. Hopefully this can be the turnaround.
“I only really get home support once a year. I don’t hear too many people in America shouting ‘come on Martin’ but sometimes over here when you’re playing well you get it.”
Laird will be hoping he gives the Gullane galleries something to shout about this week.
Source : HeraldScotland