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Monday, March 28, 2011

The Limerick Summary: 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Winner: Martin Laird

Around the wider world of golf: Sandra Gal got her first LPGA win by out-dueling Jiyai Shin at the Kia Classic; Tzu-Chi Lin won the Florida's Natural Charity Classic on the Futures Tour; Brett Wetterich won the Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Nationwide Tour; and Paul Lawrie broke a 9-year winning drought at the Open de AndalucĂ­a de Golf on the European Tour.

Reuters photo of Martin Laird
Click the photo to read the Reuters recap.

Arnold Palmer is still such an intimidating presence in the world of golf that no one could find the nerve to take his trophy.

First Spencer Levin dropped out of contention with 5 bogeys on the front 9, then Martin Laird went from leading by 3 to trailing by 3. Other contenders came and went -- David Toms made an early run and Steve Marino soon followed, only to settle for rounds of par. (Marino's par was still good enough to snag solo 2nd.) "The Bubba and Rickie Show" that Bubba twittered about never materialized as both shot rounds of 78. And Justin Rose's round of 68 was only good enough to move him into a tie for 3rd.

Of course, some of that could be blamed on the King himself. Apparently Arnie wanted the course to play hard and fast, and the afternoon winds may have taken it just a bit over the top. Johnny Miller remarked that some of the greens weren't even accepting well-hit shots, so some of the holes may have "gotten away from" the greens crew.

In the end it was Laird who fought his way back to the top. He posted birdies on the 15th and 16th, followed by pars on the 17th and 18th to seal his second Tour win and become the first European player to claim Arnie's championship.

Perhaps it was only fair. Laird has had two other chances to win in playoffs -- in one, Matt Kuchar hit a shot that was incredibly lucky to end up inches from the hole after running a victory lap around the green, and Jonathan Byrd stole the other with a hole-in-one (the only PGA playoff ever won that way) in near total darkness. After all that, getting the biggest win of his career by basically outlasting the field seems entirely appropriate!

So here's a Limerick Summary salute to the player with the highest winning final-round score in the history of the Bay Hill tournament:
The course was a challenge for Laird
And for Levin, with whom he was paired.
But his seventy-five
Helped the Scotsman survive
All the ambushes Arnie prepared.

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