Chris Kirk fashioned a really nice 5-under 65 to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. In recounting his round in the media center, he noticed an oddity; that his score didn’t match up to the way he felt he played:
Today was a nice day to get out with 5‑under for sure. I didn’t hit the ball quite as well as I have the last few days, but was able to make some really good par saves on the front and convert my birdies when I had good chances and just that continued throughout the day, thankfully.
I had one of those days yesterday where I feel like I was playing great, and it’s funny to say that, shot 6‑under the first day and 5‑under today and 1‑under yesterday, and I feel like I played better today than I did either of the other two days. I guess that’s just the way golf goes sometimes.
With the low round of the day, 6-under 64 shared by rookie Will Wilcox and veteran John Daly, that leaves a lot of players with a chance on Sunday. Just look at the names up at the top of the leaderboard:
12-under – Chris Kirk
11-under – Will Wilcox, Harris English
10-under – Jerry Kelly, Jimmy Walker
9-under – Zach Johnson, Retief Goosen, Robert Allenby, Jeff Overton, Pat Perez, Brian Stuard, Hideto Tanihara
8-under – Jason Dufner, Marc Leishman, Ryan Palmer, John Peterson, Brendon Todd
That’s 17 players within four shots of the lead with 6- or 7-under reasonable possibilities for a final round score. Given those two things, Kirk has a plan:
Yeah, just to not get too worried about what happens any given hole. When it’s so close like that, everybody is going to be making some birdies here and there but making some bogeys too, and that’s just kind of the way it goes on this golf course.
So I probably won’t look at leaderboards as much as I normally would [with just a one-stroke lead, it’s fruitless to try to protect it]. A lot of courses I think lend themselves to you need to know what your position is going into any given hole, but out here I don’t think that’s really the case. They’re just so volatile with guys making birdies and bogeys. So I’ll just probably try to keep my head down and make as many birdies as I can.
Will Wilcox won his card by finishing 7th at the end of the regular season on the Web.com Tour. His 64 is exactly the kind of firepower players seem to develop on the Web.com where they have shorter courses and very hungry fields. His week is a story of tenacity and believing that he would play better, because at the beginning of the week he wasn’t…and he would have told you so:
I would have said I have no idea where the ball is going. But then it just kind of came together. Yesterday I think I hit one fairway on my front nine, and we were just like, what am I even doing out here?
I was like embarrassed after about four of my tee shots. Not literally, but just hitting it so poorly, but loosened my hands up and everything kind of fell into place. I didn’t know what was going to happen this week. Make the cut was a dream come true; playing good on Saturday was a dream come true; getting to have a decent shot tomorrow is ridiculous. We’ll see.
His mother is the golf coach at University of Alabama-Birmingham and taught him how to play. But while she would calmly encourage him to stay calm on Sunday, he’s pretty sure that she won’t be able to:
She’ll just tell me to stay calm. She’s not going to be calm, so I’ll just try to be strong for everybody, I guess.
Harris English, T2 with Wilcox, didn’t have the greatest of days either, but he managed to make the most out of what he had shooting 3-under. Once again the good players all seem to have a great deal of patience:
It was up and down today. Hit a couple good shots in a row and then I’d turn around and hit a bad one way off line. It was just kind of “grind it til you find it.” This course is tough. It’s hard to hit the fairways, and you’ve just got to be a wizard around the greens, and that’s kind of how I approached today.
I didn’t have my best golf, but I scraped it around at 3‑under par and I’m still in this golf tournament.
He’ll be playing in the last group with Kirk and as University of Georgia alums, that’s just fine with English:
Yeah, we’ve eaten dinner a lot this week and last week back in Maui. We’re really good friends, and I’m looking forward to playing with him.
And as a third-year player with two wins under his belt, English is noticing how his efforts at finding his mastery process are coming along; he’s pleased:
This is probably my fourth, fifth, sixth time in this position, just knowing how your body reacts to pressure and how to slow down your walk and slow down your breathing a little bit, so I’m getting better and better at that.
So the game, as they say, is on.