Martin Laird has had his July golf schedule entrenched in recent years.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, being back in his home country for the Scottish Open the week before The Open Championship has been an easy call.
After Thursday's opening round of the John Deere Classic, that decision may become more difficult in coming years.
Laird had a clean card through 16 holes of play at TPC Deere Run before a wayward tee shot on No. 8 led to his only bogey of a 6-under 65 round that included seven birdies. He was just a shot behind the lead set early by Adam Long in a 64 that featured eight birdies and a bogey.
Because of his standard schedule, this is just Laird's second JDC.
The guy who sports the Scottish flag on his golf bag, golf balls and his belt placed T29 here his rookie year in 2008.
“No, this is opposite the Scottish Open this week. I've played that the last 11 years,” Laird said. “I remember my rookie year on Tour, I enjoyed this place, and I played pretty decent, I think. I can't remember but I think I played OK. It was just a clash of dates. It was hard to turn down going back and playing my national open. Otherwise I would have been here almost every year.
"This year I made the decision a couple months ago … to come here this year instead of going back to Scotland, and obviously after the round today I'm happy with that.”
While his national open is going on, the 36-year-old is playing for a lot this week in the Quad-Cities. He comes into his 22nd event of the season ranked 127th on the FedExCup list, needing to move up into the 125 to make the rapidly-approaching playoffs.
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“I'm not in a (great) position in the FedExCup,” said Laird of his motivation this week. “I'm more focused on having a nice, solid week and making sure I take care of getting in the playoffs and taking care of next year.”
There also is a nice potential bonus waiting should he stay near the top of the leaderboard. The highest finisher in the top five not already eligible for next week's Open Championship earns a spot in that field and can get there via the JDC charter that flies directly to Glasgow on Sunday evening.
“If I finish high enough, I get to go back over to play in the Open, and that's obviously an added bonus,” said Laird, who along with his family has enjoyed the Quad-Cities and especially Tuesday's Big Dig family gathering. “But no, there's no added pressure with that.”
He sure didn't show any pressure in his opening round, which matches his best score at TPC Deere Run in five rounds playing in the second group off the 10th tee in the morning wave. He hit 13 of 14 fairways in regulation and 15 of 18 greens, making 92 feet, 3 inches of putts.
“Yeah, obviously happy to get the tournament started like that,” he said. “Played nicely. It was nice being out with the second group. The greens were about as good as you're ever going to see, and played nicely.”
He hopes to continue that start and flip the switch on what has been a so-so season. His best finish has been a T9 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but has cashed in on 14 of his previous 21 starts.
“My game is in good shape right now,” he said. “I've just struggled to put four rounds together this year. If I could drop one round out of every tournament, I'd be right up there in the FedExCup. Unfortunately you can't do that.
"Last week had a nice finish to the week, shot 6-under the final round at (the 3M Open to finish T42), so I was coming in here obviously feeling good, and kind of just continued that today. Played good. Nothing was like exceptional, just everything was really solid, and it's always nice when that's the case.”
It would be nice to have another chance to head back home to play some major championship golf.