Martin Laird (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy gained further momentum heading into next week's Masters Tournament, but had to settle for second place in the Valero Texas Open as Martin Laird surged to victory with a sensational, course record equalling 63 at TPC San Antonio.
McIlroy, a late entrant to this event as he sought an improvement in form, reached 12 under par with a 66, which would have been the lowest round of the week were it not for Laird's superb display.
The 30 year old Scot began the final day one behind McIlroy and five adrift of long-time leader Billy Horschel, but left the field trailing in his wake by matching nine birdies - including three in a row at the end of his round - with as many pars.
Laird's total of 14 under ensured he triumphed by two shots and gained an invitation to Augusta National.
"It's unbelievable. I've been asked probably 30 times in the last couple of weeks 'Are you in Augusta? Are you in Augusta?' and I've had to say 'No' and every time it kind of hurt me a little bit after playing the last couple," said Laird.
"So that was my major motivation to try and get back into tournaments like that this year and this win goes a long way in doing that."
McIlroy was understandably upbeat after a closing round featuring eight birdies.
"Even though I didn't get the trophy, Martin was just too good today - 63 in these conditions is just phenomenal," said the World Number Two.
"I'm really pleased with my game and I think this has been a great week for me. To finish off this tournament in the way I did today is great going into Augusta."
Horschel went round in 71 to finish on 11 under, meaning he had to settle for a share of third with fellow Americans Jim Furyk and Charley Hoffman.
Marcel Siem, in contention prior to a triple bogey seven at 12, and Padraig Harrington were tied tenth at seven under.