Kirk takes Honda Classic playoff glory as Lowry’s putter goes stone cold

Mark McGowan

Chris Kirk after winning The Honda Classic (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

Feature Interviews

Latest Stories

Chris Kirk ended a near eight-year winless drought on the PGA Tour as he edged 34-year-old PGA Tour rookie Eric Cole at the first playoff hole to land the Honda Classic at PGA National.

Playing in the final two-ball, Kirk began the final round with a two shot lead over Cole, whose father was a former PGA Tour winner and mother a former LPGA star and US Women’s Amateur champion, and they’d distance themselves from the field, trading the lead on the back nine before an untimely bogey at the last saw Kirk relinquish a one stroke lead and hand Cole a playoff.

Kirk’s fairway wood into the par-5 closing hole was right on line for the pin, but caught the top edge of the stone wall surrounding the green, rebounding towards the middle of the lake where it almost landed on one of the tournament sponsor’s floating platformed SUVs. Cole failed to get up-and-down for birdie from the left edge of the green and Kirk couldn’t make his 15-foot par save and to a playoff they went.

A wayward tee-shot forced Kirk to layup second time around, while Cole again went for the green, this time finding the back bunker. From 109 yards, Kirk’s wedge was glorious, landing two feet past and spinning back to 16 inches, and when Cole failed to hole his 10-foot birdie putt, Kirk tapped in to complete a remarkable career turnaround during which he’d overcome alcoholism.

Asked to put it into words, Kirk struggled, but noted the role that his sobriety had played. “I can’t yet,” he said, “I just have so much to be thankful for. I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful for my sobriety. I’m so grateful for my family. I’m so grateful for everyone that’s supported me throughout the past three or four years especially. Thank you so much.”

Shane Lowry started the day four back of Kirk, but a scrappy first hole led to a bogey-five and the first miss from inside 10 feet. A two-putt birdie at the par-5 third took him back to level for the day, but he’d miss good chances at the second, fourth, sixth and eighth holes to make the turn at level par despite a ball-striking exhibition.

He’d stick one inside three feet on the difficult 10th to get into red figures for the day, but miss another 11-footer on 11 and then three-putt from 27 feet on the 12th to leave himself a mountain to climb. He’d par his way home to post a closing 70, leaving him on -9 for the tournament and in a tie for fifth place.

“I played lovely,” Lowry said of a round where he’d finish first in strokes gained tee-to-green and near last in strokes gained putting, “and I just couldn’t get it going. I started to get uncomfortable on the greens early on, and that was the way it was the whole day. Disappointing, but I had a lot of positives to take from this week. Some nice FedExCup points. My golf game is in a place where I’m happy with it. I’m going into a nice stretch of — a nice part of the season.

“I have to look at the positives. Obviously I didn’t get the job done today. Fair play to Chris or — I think he’s gone out there and he went away and played well, and yeah, I just never got it going. I hit the ball well enough to get into contention but just didn’t hole the putts.”

Still, the Offaly man had endured a testing week following the unexpected death of his uncle Jimmy with whom he’d been very close, and there were clear positives to be taken despite the frustrations of the final round.

“Yeah,” he said when asked if he was trending well towards a big week at either Bay Hill or Sawgrass, “and even like after my week in Phoenix, I was a little bit lost, and you’re standing there, and I was 180th or something in the FedExCup. You’re like, I need to make some FedExCup points soon. I’ve had two nice weeks, and hopefully I can build on this going forward now.”

Padraig Harrington’s week ended as it began with a two-over 72, as he traded three birdies with five bogeys to finish the week tied for 60th at one-over.


Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!

More News

Leave a comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.