PGA Tour winner Laird shoots for top 50
Exclusive interview by Bryce Ritchie
So what's on the agenda for today?
I'm heading off to the TaylorMade factory to get my equipment sorted for next year because of the new grooves rule. I just started playing again in the last few days to try and get back into it. I'll be getting the new R9s.
Plans for the next few weeks?
I'm going to practise here for the next week or so and then I'm going to Colorado with my girlfriend for Christmas. I'm going up there for a few days. My coach is also going to fly in at the end of the year. He's going to be here for a few days so we can get some work in before I head to Hawaii.
Hawaii for the 'winner's only' season opener?
Yeah, (the SBS Championship) is a big event. That'll be really big. I was saying the other day, it's probably not really sunk in yet, until I go to that kind of tournament with all the winners. That's the event everybody wants to play in, that's for sure.
What other benefits do you get as a PGA Tour winner?
I get in all the invitationals. I get in the likes of Bay Hill, Memorial. That's one I've watched on TV and always wanted to play in. I've always watched it and it looks so good on TV, plus the guys always say it's a really good one to play in. I'm excited to go to that. I also get in Bridgestone, the WGC at Akron, Ohio, and then the PGA. There are, of course, a lot of big events but those events are the ones that really stand out for me.
Because you'll be playing in bigger events next year, you'll be playing for more money, which means more ranking points. Is the top 50 in the world too much to shoot for?
It's not too much to shoot for. I mean, it all depends if I go out and win again, I could get enough points to move into the top 50 - and I know I can win again. It's definitely not outside my reach. But it's not easy to get up to the top 50 in the world. I mean, I could go out there again and win but it's not easy to stay there. You've got to play good, you've got to keep playing well. That's a goal of mine, but it's not a specific goal of mine in the not too distant future to get to the top 50. You get in all the majors, the World Golf Championship events and so on.
Are you surprised to be the top Scot in the world rankings?
I'm surprised that I'm 104 or 105 as top Scot . It's something I never really thought about. I mean, I always knew that Scotland was struggling without anyone inside the top 100 but the week I won was a very good field, there were a lot of world ranking points - that was a big help. I guess I'm a little surprised I'm No.1, but then again I'm not. If I can keep playing well and keep moving up, then I'll be in the top 50.
Can you explain the situation with your membership in relation to qualifying for the Ryder Cup?
It means any European Tour events I play, the money that I win counts towards the European Tour's money list. Let's say I come back and play three European Tour events and play pretty good, earning enough money to make the top 100 on the European Tour, it would all count and I could, in effect, have my full European Tour card for the following year. In terms of Ryder Cup, it means that any world ranking points I get go towards to the World Points list. If I go out and play well in Hawaii, it will help me in the Ryder Cup point list.
Are you thinking about the Ryder Cup? Is it in the back of your mind?
Yeah, it all depends really how I start my year. For me, it would be the top thing in golf to play in the Ryder Cup. It's something I would love to do but I'm not making it my single goal. Hopefully, I can go out there and play a bit better than last year and keep getting better. If I play good enough throughout the year to make it automatically or get a pick, that would be brilliant. But I'm not going out there every week saying 'I want to play Ryder Cup. I want to come back and play a few times in Europe', definitely Scottish Open and things like that. Who knows? If I play well over here in a few events, you never know.
You usually struggle the first half of the season. You won't want to do that again this year, will you?
No. I normally take a full break in the winter, four or five weeks, but this year I'm consciously not taking as big a break. I don't want to go through again what I've gone through the last two years. Even when I played Nationwide Tour, I never really played good the first seven or eight weeks. I don't really know why that is. Maybe I'm just a slow starter and need to get warmed up, but over the New Year hopefully I'll see some good results the first few weeks and that'll make a difference. That's one of the reasons I'm flying my coach out. I've never normally done that, but I'm going to do that this year. I'm going to work hard for four days before going to Hawaii.
What'll you be working on?
Well, I know my short game needs to get better and I'm going to work a bit on that. Really just making sure I'm back and my swing is at a spot where it was last year when I was playing well. Pretty much the whole second half of the year I played very well. I know I need to sharpen up my short game and putting, but it's more just to make sure I don't follow last season, when I went out and my swing wasn't where it should have been. If you're trying to play tournaments and you're not swinging it well, it just kills your confidence. I just really want to make sure I don't go out there for the first few weeks and not swing it well.