BY Golfweek Magazine
Orlando, Fla. - Talk about a reversal of fortunes.
Trailing by three shots with four to play, Martin Laird picked up a pair of birdies and two clutch pars to claim the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, becoming the first European to win the tournament in its 33-year history.
Laird, who led the field by two strokes heading into the final round, struggled mightily for most of the round, giving up the lead to Steve Marino on the back nine. Laird hit into the water on No. 11 for double bogey and a bogey on No. 14 put him three shots behind.
Laird started to climb back with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16, and made clutch pars on Nos. 17 and 18 to secure his second PGA Tour victory. Meanwhile, an ill-timed double bogey from Marino on No. 17 gave Laird a chance to win the tournament with a par on No. 18.
The Scot followed through with a two-putt from just inside 90 feet to seal the victory.
"That was a hell of a day," Laird said. "That was a tough fight out there. It was a battle out there, but you know, it makes it even sweeter at the end when I got this trophy."
Meanwhile, Marino was left wondering what could have been.
"You just cannot afford to (waste) shots in the final round — really, at any point in the tournament — if you want to win," Marino said. "Unfortunately on 17, that's exactly what I did. It came back to bite me."
Laird's 75 is the worst final-round score by a champion in Bay Hill history.
Bay Hill was rough on much of the leaderboard, with Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson both carding 6-over 78, while second-round leader Spencer Levin shot a final-round 76.
No one in the last three groups broke par.
Justin Rose closed with a 68 to tie with David Toms and Marc Leishman for third place.
Tiger Woods, who has won six times at Bay Hill, fired an even-par 72 and finished at 1 under, good for T-24. Phil Mickelson was one of those tied with Woods, after a 1-over 73.
"The back-nine pins, they are all bogey and double-bogey pins — they are not birdie pins," Mickelson said when he finished. "The last eight holes are holes that you have to play 50 feet away if you're playing smart."
Woods, being followed by a large crowd, was bogey-free through 16 holes, but finished bogey-double bogey to slip down the leaderboard.
Woods' focus is now on the Masters, and felt that Bay Hill was a sign of progress.
"(It was a) very good week, and a week I needed to see."