NORTON, Mass. – Anytime you can play Rory McIlroy to a draw on the PGA Tour these days, you’re probably going to fare pretty well.
So it was Sunday for Chris Kirk, who played alongside the Ulsterman and matched him birdie for birdie while shooting a 7-under 64 to move to 10 under and into contention at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
“We both got off to good starts, and then just fed off each other all day,” Kirk said. “I think we could have played in about three hours if there wasn’t anybody in front of us, because of all the shots going so close.”
Kirk won earlier this season at the McGladrey Classic and was a runner-up at the Sony Open, but after a consistent spring he has cooled somewhat in recent weeks. His last six starts have yielded only one top-25 finish, that being a T-19 result at the Open Championship.
“I haven’t played my best over the last month or so,” he said. “I haven’t had a round like (today) where I drove it great and hit a lot of really good iron shots.”
Kirk was already 5 under on the day when his approach shot to the par-4 17th bounded left and into an awkward lie in the rough. What appeared to be a likely bogey, though, turned into an unexpected birdie. With the ball well above his feet, his chip shot hit the flagstick and dropped in.
“I hit a decent second shot there, just sort of rode the wind a little too much,” Kirk said. “Anything like that is definitely a bonus.”
Kirk finished the Ryder Cup qualification process at No. 14 in the U.S. points list, with only the top nine players earning automatic berths on the team. While his name hasn’t been mentioned much as a possible captain’s pick, a win Monday would certainly change his candidacy in the eyes of captain Tom Watson.
While Kirk said he would welcome a selection, he’s not plotting his upcoming schedule around a potential trip to Scotland.
“I’m planning on seeing Georgia play Tennessee that weekend,” said Kirk, a Georgia alum. “I couldn’t be any less worried about it. It would be purely a bonus if I was to somehow sneak onto the team.”