Valero Texas Open: Martin Laird ready for title defence
Defending Texas Open champion Martin Laird hopes his return to TPC San Antonio this week will revive his fortunes.
Last Updated: 26/03/14 11:52am
The Scot experienced what he called "the best round of golf I ever played" when a closing 63 saw him pip Rory McIlroy to the title 12 months ago.
However, Laird is yet to register a top-10 finish this year and dropped to 101st in the world rankings after a 76th-placed finish at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Laird, who has been as high as 21st in the world during his career, said: "I've been playing solid, just not great.
"You hear all the time people saying they're close. I feel like I am pretty close. I feel like I'm playing a little bit better than my results have been.
"I'm obviously excited to be back this week. I obviously have a lot of fond memories from last year and the way the tournament finished.
"The thing I remember most is obviously my final round - I know I'll never forget it. It was probably the best round of golf I ever played and something
I'll always remember, and the fact that it was a good way to win a tournament as prestigious as the Valero Texas Open, it only made it more special."
Laird arrived at the Cibolo Canyons venue last year with his game in bits, yet turned in his breathtaking finish, so he is hopeful of a good performance again this week.
"I came in here last year probably actually playing worse than I am this year and managed to win. You never know with the golf course," said the 31-year-old.
"Obviously it's a golf course I love and feel comfortable on. Hopefully that motivates me to kind of turn it around a little bit this week."
Laird will head out on Thursday alongside Phil Mickelson, who is also without a top-10 finish this year, and 20-year-old emerging star Jordan Spieth.
Open champion Mickelson is competing in the event for the first time since 1992, when he finished joint 47th at Oak Hills Country Club in just his sixth start as a professional.
The Texas Open is the last chance for players to climb into the top 50 in the world rankings to qualify for next month's Masters.
However, world No 53 Richard Sterne and No 55 George Coetzee are not in the field at San Antonio.
The only players who can move into the top 50 without winning in Texas are Chesson Hadley (56th) and Ryan Palmer (62nd).
Everyone else who could make it to the top 50 would have to win, which secures a Masters invite anyway.
Watch the first round of the Texas Open live on Sky Sports 4HD from 7pm on Thursday.