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Martin Laird takes a one-shot lead at Bay Hill

Second-round leaderboard: -9 M Laird (Sco) -8 S Levin (US), K J Choi (Kor) -6 S Marino (US), C Howell III (US), H Mahan (US), V Taylor (US) -4 R Fowler (US), J Dufner (US) Selected others: -3 T Woods (US), S Garcia (Spa) -2 I Poulter (Eng), B Davis (Eng) level J Rose (Eng) +1 P Mickelson (US)


Martin Laird
Laird leads the Bay Hill event by one shot

Scotland's Martin Laird leads the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida after a seven-under-par round of 65.

Laird, who took advantage of less blustery afternoon conditions, sunk a 12-foot birdie putt on the last for a nine-under 135 at the halfway stage.

"The eagle on the 16th was a real turning point for me. If that hadn't hit the hole, it would have gone about 10 foot by," said Laird.

KJ Choi hit the round of the day with a 64 and is only one shot behind Laird.

South Korea's Choi is level on eight under with Spencer Levin, who slipped from first on the leaderboard after a 70.

Levin continued the form that gave him a six-under-par 66 on Thursday as his front nine featured three birdies, although dropped shots on the 14th and 17th pegged back the American.

Impressive rounds of 67 and 65 respectively left Steve Marino and Charles Howell III in joint fourth place with Hunter Mahan and Vaughn Taylor, three shots behind Laird.

Just because I've been over here, started college here in 2000, doesn't mean I don't think of myself as Scottish and European

Martin Laird

Laird recovered from a bogey on his opening hole to fire six birdies and an eagle without dropping another shot.

And the 28-year-old - now ranked 40th in the world after an impressive start to 2011, including a top-10 finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championship - spoke of the transformation in his game since his move to the United States from Scotland to attend university.

"I was 17 years old when I came over [to the US] and I wasn't really very good," he said.

"By the time I graduated, I definitely had improved a lot, just playing competitive golf almost all year round and having really good practice facilities and a good coach helped me get a lot better over my four years.

"I used to hit the ball really low and now I probably have one of the higher ball flights on tour. That's something that definitely benefits you when you play over here. Probably if I had stayed in Europe, that wouldn't be the case."

Laird, who graduated from Colorado State University and has been living and playing in the States for the last decade, insisted his lengthy spell away from home soil does not affect his ambitions of taking on the United States at the next Ryder Cup in September 2012.

"It's on my mind constantly," he explained. "It would be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, goals and achievements for me in my career.

"Just because I've been over here, started college here in 2000, doesn't mean I don't think of myself as Scottish and European.

"To make that team would mean everything to me. Next year I'm going to do everything I can to get on that team."

Six-time Bay Hill winner Tiger Woods hit a 68 to remain in contention, having carded a less than impressive first round score of 73.

"I had a hard time getting the ball to the hole today," Woods said after a round of five birdies and only one bogey.

"I was very surprised how slow the greens were today. They must have soaked them pretty good last night because balls were holding, they were spinning back a little bit, very different than what we had yesterday," commented Woods.

"We are trying to build towards the first major and that's kind of how my game is. It's building and it's coming."

However, the day belonged to Laird, who is chasing his second PGA Tour title and fourth win as a professional.



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