Saturday, February 25, 2012



Scotland's Martin Laird will not be intimidated by the prospect of facing Lee Westwood in the last eight of the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona today.
Laird has three European scalps already in Tucson this week, having taken out Alvaro Quiros, Matteo Manassero and compatriot Paul Lawrie whom he beat by 3 and 1 in the round of the last 16.
Now Laird, pictured, originally from Glasgow and a former Scottish youths champion and the current World No 40, who has been based in America since his college days and lives only two hours away in Scottsdale, tackles third seed Westwood in the quarter-finals.
Westwood will be a hot favourite as he chases the win on Sunday that would restore him to the world number one ranking, but the 29-year-old Laird said: "I'm looking forward to it and if I keep playing like I am it will be a good game."
Westwood, though, has been impressive so far in seeing off Nicolas Colsaerts, Robert Karlsson and then Tiger Woods' conqueror Nick Watney in reaching the third round for the first time in 12 attempts.
Watney knocked out the third seed the last two years and Westwood said: "I didn't want to make it a habit. It's nice to get my own back and I feel in control of nearly every part of my game."
He has played 49 holes so far and has led for 48 of them, so could repeat the feat of Donald last year in winning without ever being behind or playing the final hole.
Westwood is trying to become the third successive English player to lift the trophy. Before Donald it was Ian Poulter.
Rory McIlroy added the scalp of Ryder Cup team-mate Miguel Angel Jimenez, having earlier beaten George Coetzee and Anders Hansen.
"I felt like I hit a lot of quality shots, especially coming down the stretch when I needed to," said the 22-year-old Northern Irishman, preferring to remember those rather than a couple of fluffed chips and a few missed short putts.
"I'm driving the ball really well and that's a big positive."
McIlroy takes on the unheralded South Korean Bae Sang-moon in the quarter-finals, while Europe's other survivor Peter Hanson faces American Mark Wilson.
If the Swede comes through that it is certain to be another of the home contingent blocking his path to the final. Hunter Mahan beat one Ryder Cup colleague Steve Stricker in the third round to set up a match with another, Matt Kuchar.


Q. You were telling a story yesterday about how Paul Lawrie had come along as a champion and coached you as a young kid in the Scottish boys team, and now you're duffing him up. Tell us about that.

MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, it was a shame we were both paired together. I would have liked to see two Scots go through. But yeah, Paul Lawrie, when I was 16 came to Scotland boys' session, and I remember that. And it's kind of surreal my playing against him now. But I'm pleased to go through.

Q. You told us your coach flew in from South Africa earlier in the week. It looks like he's going to crack a joke, because you're playing really well?

MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, I really didn't play very well the last two weeks on the West Coast over here. He came in last Sunday and we worked hard the last four days. He left yesterday. I'm feeling comfortable. And I'm hitting the ball as well as I was in probably a good 6, 8 months, anyway.

Q. You've got a home in Scottsdale, which is not that far from here, desert golf, does it help you understand this part of the game better?

MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, you know, it's only a couple hour drive away. And one thing is when it warms up in the desert the ball starts going far. And Paul hit good shots today that went over the green. And that's the thing, getting late in the day, it's a little bit local knowledge, probably half a club different from the front nine to the back nine, and that's definitely an advantage.

Q. Lee Westwood tomorrow (Saturday), thoughts on that one?

MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, excited for whoever is next and turns out it's Lee. I'm getting all the Europeans it seems like this week, and I'm obviously looking forward to that. And if I keep going as I am it should be a good game.

Q. Martin, many congratulations. It must feel like you're on a real roll now?

MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, you know, every round you get through the field gets a little smaller and you get a little more confident. I'm looking forward to the match tomorrow.

Q. Was there an odd feeling slightly going into this match being you against a Scot, as you were?

MARTIN LAIRD: Yeah, it was unfortunate we got paired together, I'd love to have seen both of us go through. But the way it turned out you can't do much about it. It was a little strange, but obviously pleased to go through.

Q. What was the key to your win, did you feel?

MARTIN LAIRD: I just played real solid. I don't think I made a bogey all day. In match play when you don't give any holes away, it's tough to get beat. Especially the pin positions today, seemed to be tougher today, there's not going to be as many bowing birdies thrown out as the last few days. The course is firming up. The greens and the fairways are getting firmer, so it's been harder.

Q. Might be an exaggeration to say this, but I'll say it anyway, you are the Scot in Scottsdale. So you live out here for much of the year. Does that help you this week?

MARTIN LAIRD: Definitely helps. I feel comfortable playing desert golf. I've got a pretty good record in desert golf. My first win in Vegas came on a [CK] difficulties earth golf course. And I play practice on a desert course. I feel comfortable and I'm used to how far the ball goes out here. When it warms up like it did today, the ball starts going pretty far. Paul hit some good, quality shots today it just went over the back of the green in not great shots. That might have something to do with not being used to the conditions.

Q. Just in terms of the all Scottish nature of the match you played, that added edge from the fact that Paul Lawrie came along as an Open champion and dispensed words of advice to you as a teenager?

MARTIN LAIRD: That was fun, back in 99, I remember I was 16 years old, and the current Open champion came along to a Scottish training session. It was fun. I remember looking up and thinking that's where I want to be. And it's fun to be there now and go out and play him today. We had a good game. I knew it was going to be a tough game. He's been playing great recently and he wasn't going to give me anything. I'm pleased to go through.

Q. The irony of that one didn't get lost to you today when you were teeing up?

MARTIN LAIRD: No, trying not to think too much about that and trying not to think about who I'm playing. Just go out and play my game. If I keep playing the way I am, it doesn't matter who I'm against, I feel like I can win.

Q. What do you think of playing Lee Westwood, obviously, in the quarter finals now?

MARTIN LAIRD: I'm looking forward to it. I've never actually played with Lee. You've got to look forward to playing the guys that are ranked up in the world. He's definitely proven that he's one of the best players in the world over the last few years and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Q. A lot to play for this weekend?

MARTIN LAIRD: Yes, there is. That's what it's all about. That's what you practice hard for. I've been looking forward to this tournament ever since last year. I love match play golf and I'm looking forward to it.



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