Chris Kirk sank a clutch 7-footer on the 18th hole to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial by a shot over the zealous threesome of Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth and Jason Bohn. Snedeker had a 14-footer on 18 that just lipped out, Spieth sunk a 19-footer on 18 for birdie in hopes of a playoff and all Bohn did was to shoot 63 on the day, the low round of the day. And he was walking in his 28-footer on 18 for a 62 until it just lipped out.
All of this happened in front of Kirk’s threesome and was a great demonstration of the depth of the PGA Tour including Kirk’s own scrambling par from the trees on 18 for the win. It was a very dramatic ending right down to Ian Poulter, playing in the last group, trying to hole his second shot for an eagle to tie. The shot went awry, but the drama was right there until impact.
The principle lesson from Kirk’s win was the same as George McNeill’s 65 for the first round lead: neither one of them was very confident where the ball was going, but got it around by playing smart, if not great, golf:
You know, especially through a lot of the round, didn’t really feel great, especially with my driver. That was why I wanted to hit driver on 18 so bad, but I just hadn’t made a whole lot of good swings with it so tried to hit a little hook 3-wood around there.
Felt like I kind of really just gutted it out and made the putts when I needed to down the stretch. And then to make that putt on 18, my first three wins on Tour have all been little tap-ins on the last hole, so to step up and make a putt that I knew was to win is something I’ll never forget.
But having said that, he eagled the par-5 1st and shot under par in all four rounds, a first for him. Given his rough edges, that makes the win all the more impressive.
Yeah, that was obviously a great way to start the day. I didn’t realize that that was my first time having all four subpar rounds. I had some good results in this tournament, I’ve had chances to win before but have never really been able to piece the four rounds together. I’ve had some really great rounds but they’ve never quite got the job done. So to be able to put it all together this year is pretty cool.
Playing with Snedeker, Kirk described how the emotions changed as he watched Snedeker miss his 14-footer he was certain he would make and then realized that his 7-footer wasn’t going to be to get into a playoff with Sneds, it was to win. And with his whole body shaking, he did.
Yeah, you know, obviously I had to have — had the mentality, I was getting ready to get up and make that putt to get into a playoff, that was what I thought. And close friends with Brandt and play a lot of golf with him and he doesn’t miss very many of those putts, so that was what I was prepared to do.
And then once he didn’t make it, then I was able to change my mindset a little bit. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, you know. It’s all about you’ve got to read it right and you’ve got to step up and hit the putt that you need to hit.
So to do that, whether it was to be in a playoff or to win, I wouldn’t have been any more or less nervous either way. So to have that feeling going through you when your whole body’s just kind of shaking, I know I don’t really look like that thankfully, but to be able to step up and make that putt, that’s the reason why all of us do this.
There is a school of thought that players avoid looking at the leaderboard because it doesn’t matter. You should be playing 100% full out and post your best score by eliminating the nerves that come with knowing the herd is breathing down your neck. The other school of thought is that the leaderboard is another element in the grand equation of winning a tournament and it could spur you on with adrenaline just as readily as nerves could bring you down:
I’m sort of somewhere in between. I’m not like a constant leaderboard watcher but I’m not like walking around like this [with eyes averted] to make sure I don’t see them either. If I happen to notice one, then I’ll maybe check in, but I don’t really care a whole lot what anybody else is doing.
I’m very focused on the task at hand and focused on hitting my shots and hitting my putts to the best of my ability and I think that shows, you can probably see that in my demeanor. I’m not concerned with what other people are doing. I know that I just have to take care of my business and let the chips fall where they may.
And all of that is compounded when you just don’t feel like your A-game:
To be honest with you, kind of surprised that I’m sitting here with y’all at the moment. Every other time that I’ve either won or been in this position I’ve really felt great about pretty much all aspects of my game. To be able to do it when I didn’t really feel like I quite had it is I feel like a huge step for me.
I think The Players Championship [where he blew the 54-hole lead by shooting 75 in the final round to finish T13] was more of the same thing. I didn’t really feel great with my swing there. I mean, I was playing really efficient golf, I was getting the ball up and down, making putts and hitting good iron shots when I had to. So to go in there at The Players with the lead going in the final round and not win, I wasn’t really hard on myself and, you know, didn’t really expect to come and do this this week.
I was probably more nervous today than any of my previous three wins coming down the stretch just because I was constantly just having to — it wasn’t like oh, that’s where I want to hit it, hit it. I was having to figure out a way to do it and hit.
Like I said, I wanted to hit driver on 18 but I just didn’t think that I was going to hit it anywhere on the planet, to be honest with you. So I was just trying to figure out a way to somehow keep it in front of me and somehow just get the ball in the hole. So like I said, I’m a little bit surprised but very proud of myself that I was able to do it.
So once again we have demonstrated to us by the best players in the world, just why they are the best players in the world.
Kirk may not have the stars of the tour’s cachet, but for our purposes of studying the inner workings of golf mastery from a victory like this, he is every bit as informative and interesting. And we are lucky that professional golfers as a whole, male or female, are a highly conscious group willing to share not just what they did, but how they did it.
Their willingness to candidly and generously share their innermost thoughts and feelings is where we mine our gold.