In the three months that Scotland native Martin Laird and his wife, Meagan, have lived at Lake Norman, the worlds 32nd-ranked golfer has learned the lay of the land.
Laird has learned when not to be on I-77, attended his first NASCAR race and teed it up in a weekend game with some low-handicap members at Trump National Charlotte (formerly The Point) where he lives.
Though Laird still plans to spend his winters in Scottsdale, Az., hes quickly come to love the convenience of flying in and out of Charlotte, getting home on Sunday evenings and being near where the bulk of the PGA Tour schedule is based. The worst thing that happened so far was a two-hour drive home from Quail Hollow during the Wells Fargo Championship due to an accident on I-77.
Every time we came to play Wells Fargo, we loved the town, Laird said. Its one of the couple of cities that when we go to tournaments, wed think we could live here.
Wanting a place on the water but not wanting to be in Florida, Laird toured Lake Norman on the advice of friends and found what he wanted. It didnt hurt that Laird and his wife went house-hunting the day after he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March 2011.
As the U.S. Open approaches this week at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, Laird bears watching. The 29-year old has two PGA Tour victories on his resume but his runner-up finish last month at The Players Championship may have been a turning point in his career.
Laird started the final round six strokes behind leader Kevin Na and though Matt Kuchar rallied to win, Laird shot a closing 67 that proved he can handle the stress of Sunday golf at the biggest events. The challenge to this point, however, has been getting to the weekend in major championships.
In 10 major starts, Laird has missed seven cuts including all three U.S. Opens hes played.
At The Players, thats a good finish in terms of proving to myself that I can go out in the final round of a huge tournament and play that way, Laird said. The best thing I took out of it is I wasnt nervous at all in the final round. It was weird. It was the calmest Ive felt.
I was way more nervous at Bay Hill and at Vegas where I won than I was at (the Players). I felt so relaxed. I felt like I belonged out there. It didnt feel like it was too big a situation for me. Thats when you feel like, okay, maybe my game is getting to the level where I can play in these big events and not feel overwhelmed and intimidated by them. I definitely feel like thats the case.
A big week at Olympic Club would bolster Lairds chances of landing on the European Ryder Cup team this fall. Hes made it more difficult on himself by choosing to play the PGA Tour full-time rather than try to split time on the European Tour, as well.
He has been in the United States since he attended Colorado State. Laird earned Nationwide Tour status after college, played his way onto the big tour and has made the U.S. home, though he gets back to his native Glasgow a handful of times each year.
Playing in the Ryder Cup is one of my main targets for the year but Im not going to completely change my lifestyle and everything to do it, Laird said. My wife is from over here. Were happy over here. If I make it, great, but Im not going to run off to Europe for four or five months to do it.