Scotland's Martin Laird finally has lift-off in his bid for a Ryder Cup debut this year -- four months after everybody else trying to make the European team started picking up points.
Laird birdied five of the last seven holes to finish runner-up to Steve Stricker at the PGA Tour's season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Monday.
While Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and the rest began trying to qualify for Jose Maria Olazabal's side last September, the 29-year-old Laird wasn’t eligible until rejoining the European Tour as an affiliate member this month. He was required to play 13 European Tour events last season if he wanted to be in on the points race from the start, but chose to concentrate on the American circuit.
Second place at Kapalua was worth 22.8 ranking points and lifted him from 47th to 33rd in the world, but it still left him only 40th on the current Ryder Cup list.
"I've been saying the last month or two I want to get off to a quick start this year and get my name up there as a name that's in contention for the team," he said. "Obviously coming out here and playing like that has done that for me, but I reckon I need to win at least once, maybe twice, to get on that team on points."
Laird, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March, isn’t playing this week's Sony Open, but returns to action in California next week and is playing every week in February.
"I'm excited about the first part of my schedule," he said. "I really like all those courses and feel I have a really good chance of winning at all those tournaments."
Bogeys at the eighth and 10th left Laird too much to do unless Stricker had a nightmare finish, but the Glaswegian was delighted to close as strongly as he did.
"I let a bunch of final rounds go last year and I had a little talk to myself walking down 11," he said. "I set my goal birdieing five of the last seven holes standing on 12 tee and I did that."