Notes: Laird fixing swing on the fly

Martin Laird hits a shot during the pro-am round prior to the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Think the importance of swing coaches is overstated? Then consider the case of Martin Laird, who’s having success this season while seeing less of his instructors.

“I told my coaches, I don’t really want to see you very much,” said Laird, who works with swing coach Mark McCann and putting instructor Dave Stockton Jr. “Last year, I’d see my swing coach almost every week. ... I just told them, I like where my game is going. When you’re on the course, they’re not there.

“I didn’t hit it that good last week, but I told my coach, leave me alone for a couple days and I’ll try to figure it out. Instead of thinking, I’m just going out and playing, which is where everyone wants to be.”

Laird opened with 70 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He’s coming off consecutive top-10 finishes at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and Transitions Championship. He also finished third at the Phoenix Open and was in the final group at the Bob Hope, where a final-round 74 dropped him to 22nd.

Laird has risen to No. 40 in the Official World Golf Ranking, 64 spots higher than he was at the beginning of 2010.

• • •

Daniel Chopra’s struggles in 2010 – he finished 176th on the PGA Tour money list – leave the two-time winner with limited status on the PGA Tour. The Arnold Palmer Invitational is just his second PGA Tour start of the season, and very well may be his last.

Chopra got off to a promising start, shooting a 2-under 70 at Bay Hill that put him inside the top 10. Chopra, a Bay Hill member for the past seven years, has had plenty of opportunities to practice at the site of this week’s tournament. His only other tournament this year was the Nationwide Tour’s season opener in Panama.

Chopra started working with instructor Mitchell Spearman late last year in an attempt to resurrect his game. Chopra’s last Tour win came at the first event of the 2008 season, the Mercedes-Benz Championship. He’s had just two top-10s since.

Chopra said he will focus on the Nationwide Tour this year in his attempt to regain full playing privileges.

• • •

Trevor Immelman shot 72 Thursday with two birdies and two bogeys. He missed just two fairways and five greens in the first round. With the Masters just two weeks away, the 2008 champion is trying to regain the form he lost while struggling with a wrist injury the past couple years.

He’s missed just one cut in five starts in 2011. A tie for 28th at last week’s Transitions Championship was his best finish this season. Compare that to last year, when he made just nine of 19 cuts and had zero top-10s.

Immelman had surgery in October 2009 for tendinitis in his left wrist. He said his wrist bothered for about a year before the surgery, but he tried to play through the pain, which led to bad habits.

“Most of this year, I’ve been feeling pretty good. I would say (the wrist injury is) behind me now,” Immelman said. “The challenge has been for (David Leadbetter) and I to get back to the things I had been doing four or five years ago. I just created some bad habits I have to fix. It’s just a matter of retraining it and then trusting it when I get out to the tournament.”

• • •

Vaughn Taylor also was among the large group that shot 2-under 70 on Thursday. Taylor, an Augusta, Ga., native, needs a victory to qualify for his first Masters since 2008. Last year, Taylor almost scored an 11th-hour Masters invite with a victory at the Shell Houston Open, the tournament preceding the Masters. Taylor lost to Anthony Kim in a playoff, though.

Taylor played in three Masters from 2006-08, missing the cut twice and finishing 10th in 2007.

• • •

Short shots: Graeme McDowell, No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking, shot 80. McDowell is the highest-ranked player in the field. ... Kenny Perry withdrew after a first-round 79. ... Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson, shot a first-round 74. Two events into the 2011 Nationwide Tour season, Saunders is 25th on the money list; the top 25 at season’s end earn PGA Tour cards. He finished 10th at the tour’s season opener in Panama. His tie for 15th earlier this year at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was his best career finish in a PGA Tour event.

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