McGirt tops Curran in Memorial playoff for first win

By Doug FergusonJune 5, 2016, 11:39 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio - William McGirt thought he hit it big when he won the Cabarrus Classic and pocketed $16,000, the second-largest prize on the Tar Heel Tour.

That was in 2007, and it felt like a lifetime ago compared with the perks from winning the Memorial on Sunday.

The victory was worth $1.53 million and a three-year exemption for a guy who once dreamed of simply having a PGA Tour card.

Waiting to congratulate him was tournament host Jack Nicklaus, who raved about the bunker shot on the 18th hole that kept McGirt in the playoff at Muirfield Village, and the flop shot from behind the 18th green that led to a 6-foot putt and his first PGA Tour victory in his 165th try.

U.S. Open qualifying? Take the day off.

McGirt moves up to No. 43 in the world and was assured a spot in his first national championship.

''It will all sink in at some point,'' McGirt said.

This was a long time coming.

McGirt couldn't count all the mini-tours he played and the self-doubts he ignored, including a four-month stretch in which he saw his wife for only four days. But on Sunday against the strongest field of the year for a regular PGA Tour event, McGirt made his first victory one to remember.


Memorial Tournament: Articles, photos and videos


He played the final 22 holes at Muirfield Village without a bogey. His final par in regulation was the most important, a two-putt from 65 feet for a 1-under 71 that allowed him to join Jon Curran (70) in a playoff at 15-under 273.

McGirt won the way Nicklaus said he captured so many of his 73 times on the PGA Tour.

''I won half of my golf tournaments watching everyone else self-destruct,'' Nicklaus said. ''And that's the way you win. I saw him coming down the stretch. I saw Jon coming down the stretch. The two of them played great. I felt that either one of them could have won.''

Dustin Johnson dropped three shots in four holes to start the back nine, and a fourth bogey on the 16th ended it for him. Matt Kuchar was tied for the lead when he returned from a 90-minute rain delay and promptly hit the lip of a fairway bunker and made double bogey. He never recovered. Emiliano Grillo had a share of the lead until starting the back nine with four straight bogeys. Gary Woodland couldn't get up and down behind the 17th green and made bogey.

Curran, who knows Nicklaus from being a member at his Bear's Club in South Florida, looked like a winner when he hit 7-iron out of a fairway bunker on the 17th hole to 7 feet for birdie to join McGirt at 15 under. McGirt was battling his swing and trying to hang on. He saved par from a bunker on the 17th. He had the long two-putt for par on the 18th hole. And he was in trouble on the 18th in a playoff, facing a deep bunker shot to a back pin.

He expertly used the slope behind the hole and watched his shot roll back to a few feet to stay alive.

''That was a long bunker shot,'' Nicklaus said.

''I don't want to hit it again,'' McGirt replied.

Playing the 18th for the third time, Curran misjudged the strong wind at his back and went into the gallery above the green, and his pitch ran down the slope well past the hole, leading to bogey. McGirt also went long and played a perfect flop shot to 6 feet for the winner.

''Surprisingly, I felt no nerves standing over that putt and poured it right in the middle,'' McGirt said.

Johnson finished alone in third - his fifth finish in the top 5 this season - while Rory McIlroy (68) tied for fourth with Kuchar (73), Woodland (73) and J.B. Holmes (69).

Jason Day, a Muirfield Village member and No. 1 in the world, got to within two shots of the lead until he tumbled to a 74 and tied for 27th, matching his best result at the Memorial. Jordan Spieth shot 73 and finished 12 shots behind in a tie for 57th.

McGirt became the third straight Memorial champion to become a first-time PGA Tour winner, and it was the third straight playoff at Muirfield Village.

In his 12 years as a pro, he has played only one major, the 2012 PGA Championship. That was meaningful, even though he missed the cut, because he was coming off a close call at the Canadian Open in which he didn't look at the leaderboard the final round. He ran into Tiger Woods, told him what he did, and he said Woods told him he was foolish for not looking. McGirt didn't make that mistake twice.

And when it was over, his name was at the top.

The U.S. Open is now on his schedule. So is the PGA Championship at the end of July, and the Masters next April.

''I wondered for years if I would ever get to the PGA Tour,'' McGirt said. ''And then once you get out here, OK, you've played 160 events. Are you ever going to win? But I think you have to get your nose bloodied some to learn how to handle it, and I definitely had my nose bloodied a few times.''

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.