By Andrew Both
GREENSBORO North Carolina (Reuters) - Three-time PGA Tour winner Martin Laird, back in business after returning to his old swing coach, overcame a slow start to move within one stroke of the clubhouse lead at the Wyndham Championship in Thursday.
The North Carolina-based Scot carded a five-under-par 65, his lowest numerical score of the season on the PGA Tour.
American William McGirt was the early leader on 64, while countryman Scott Langley joined Laird on 65 in perfect morning conditions on an unusually mild day at Sedgefield.
Laird has won three times on tour, most recently the Texas Open last year, but rather than using those successes as a springboard, he has regressed this season.
However, a return to coach Mark McCann six weeks ago has the 31-year-old hopeful that he is back on the right track after missing all four majors this year.
“I’d been struggling with my ball-striking a little while, kind of searching,” Laird told reporters.
“We started working on some things that we worked on in the past and with that little comfort factor knowing I played my best golf working with him in the past, we clicked and I started playing a little better and building the confidence week by week."
Laird said he “played great” at the Canadian Open three weeks ago, but lacked the confidence necessary to execute the shots needed to contend. Little by little, though, the confidence is returning, a tie for sixth in Reno two weeks ago another step in the right direction.
Sedgefield, at 7,130 yards, is a short course by modern standards and it requires precision more than power, though there are plenty of holes where players can unleash their drivers if they so choose.
“I only hit three or four drivers today,” said Laird. “It’s a great second shot course, different than a lot we play on tour that are all about hit it as far as you can.”
Laird is 136th on the tour’s points list, which under different circumstances would have him fretting over his job security.
Laird, however, is exempt until the end of next year, thanks to his victory last year.
A lot of other players do not have that cushion and will lose their card if they are outside the top 125 this week.
(Reporting by Andrew Both, Editing by Gene Cherry)