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Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 18:30 UK

Laird laps up Loch return

Martin Laird
Laird enjoyed his first taste of the European Tour

By Liam McLeod
BBC Scotland at the Scottish Open

Martin Laird has been a professional golfer since 2004 and proudly sports the Scottish Saltire on his belt, bag and tees, yet he is making his pro-bow on home soil at Loch Lomond this week.

And the 26-year-old will be wishing he'd come home sooner after firing a fantastic first-round 65 at the Scottish Open.

"I've never had the opening to play over here and I'm excited but I came with no targets," the US-based Laird told BBC Scotland after his first taste of the European Tour.

"It was a perfect day, nice and sunny and the greens were smooth. Getting a good start was important because if you don't you're battling from behind every day.

"I can take some pressure off myself with that score but, at the same time, I've added some pressure.

"I just wanted to play as well as I could and see where that gets me, but after that I wonder why I've not been back for a while."

Born in Glasgow, just a few miles up the A82 from the Loch Lomond course, Laird left Scotland to study for a marketing degree at Colorado University on a golf scholarship and has settled in Arizona.

And with some of his family watching him in action for the first time, he put on quite a show, with six birdies in a blemish-free round.

"I was a little nervous this morning," he admitted with more than a trace of a mid-Atlantic drawl. "But I hit a great drive down the first hole and that calmed me down right away.

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"I also got a few 'come on Martin' chants and there's a few people like my grandma, grandpa and my uncle who have never seen me play."

Laird is not a complete stranger to the stunning Loch Lomond setting, having visited as a spectator in his teenage years.

And the parkland set-up is akin to many of the venues he plays when rubbing shoulders with the likes of Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh on the PGA Tour.

"This is definitely the driest I've ever seen the course," he joked at his media conference. "And that was as much fun as I've had on the golf course in a long time.

"It has a lot of similarities with American courses but there are a few Scottish characteristics. It's not like coming back and being thrown on a links course with firm, fast fairways and playing chip and runs."

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy was looking sharp around the greens at Loch Lomond

Laird will get a chance to play those kind of shots next week since he has already secured a place at the Open, via US qualifying.

But, barring a catastrophic slump on Friday, his preparations for Turnberry will have to wait until Monday.

Laird attracted good support from the galleries, while the home crowd also cheered their approval for Rory McIlroy, who opened with a three-under-par 68.

In a bid to curry favour with locals, the 20-year-old from Northern Ireland sported a splendid pair of tartan trousers, as did his flamboyant playing partner Ian Poulter.

"I have three pairs," said McIlroy. "I haven't got a clothes sponsor at the minute so we just thought 'what would people like to see me in', and because it's the Scottish Open, I thought I'd go with some different tartans.

"I don't know what ones these are but I've got a McIlroy tartan, a Loch Lomond tartan and a Forever Scotland tartan.

"Myself and Ian Poulter were on Twitter, tweeting each other last night trying outdo ourselves."

However, McIlroy's trousers are far from the loudest on the course. That honour belongs to John Daly.

The chubby American's slacks are to be seen to be believed and I pray they come with a volume control.



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see also
Monty eyes homecoming boost
08 Jul 09 |  Golf
Laird relishes return to Scotland
08 Jul 09 |  Golf


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