Scotsman Martin Laird began the day with a two stroke advantage in the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational. He dropped five shots over the first eleven holes, but re-awoke at just the right time to hold off perennial bridesmaid Steve Marino and finish at eight under. Birdies at 12, 15, and 16 turned around Laird's fortunes as did a clutch 86 foot two-putt on the 18th hole. Marino began the day four behind Laird, but had taken the lead after 11 due to Laird's inefficiencies. A bogey on 15 and a disastrous double on 17 however cost him his 1st PGA Tour win. Marino's rare birdie on 18 had made things interesting until Laird's par on the same hole made it moot.
Justin Rose's superb 68, under the conditions, made him wait as leader in the clubhouse until Marino finished. He shared a T3 at -6 with Marc Leishman and 44 year old David Toms. Nice showing by Toms, who has been injury stricken in the last couple of years. Full Field Final Scores
Mr. Palmer always said he'd love to host a US Open at his beloved Bay Hill. Well, he may never get his Open, but today he had US Open conditions. Dry fairways, wind, and rock-hard, fast greens made many shots a virtual coin flip regarding their results. Case in point the par three 17th. 19 of 73 players hit the green in regulation. That's a 24 handicapper rate of 26%. Balls couldn't land softly enough to hold the pool table surface and bumbled into the back bunker.
Combine these conditions with some masochistic pin placements on the back nine and the result was professional golfers struggling to make par. One victim was my pick to win, Rickie Fowler. He began the round three back, shot 78, and finished T30.
Two weeks until Augusta, the world's best major with the weakest field.