(Reuters) - Scotland’s Martin Laird outdueled Rory McIlroy with a spectacular final-round 63 to win the Texas Open by two shots over the world number two on Sunday.
Laird started the day five shots behind leader Billy Horschel but vaulted into the mix with five birdies on his front nine. He added four more on the back to complete the bogey-free round in nine-under and end the tournament at 14-under 274.
The victory brought Laird his first win on the PGA Tour in over two years and more importantly earned him an invitation to this week’s Masters.
“It’s pretty special,” Laird told reporters, who missed four of eight cuts entering the tournament.
“I play my best golf when I‘m aggressive. If someone is behind me making birdies I know I have to keep making (them).”
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, who entered the Texas Open at the last minute to shake off rust before the year’s opening major, flirted with his first win of the season as he showed improved form with a six-under par 66 for a 276 total.
The 23-year-old twice pulled within a shot of the lead with birdies on 14 and 16, but Laird, playing a group in front of McIlroy, kept up the torrid pace and birdied holes 16, 17 and 18.
“Everything I wanted to accomplish this week, I accomplished,” McIlroy said after his best finish of the year.
“I‘m very happy that I‘m going into next week with my game in good shape and my confidence level pretty high.”
Overnight leader Horschel managed a one-under par 71 to finish three shots back at 277 along with Charley Hoffman (69) and Jim Furyk (69).
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, editing by Gene Cherry/Peter Rutherford