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Kirk overcomes slow start to share lead

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“Everyone knows that Lee and Billy were a great partnership and it made sense that now Billy is fully fit again that the partnership reforms … They’ve had their heart-to-heart, sorted out whatever needed sorting out, and Billy will be back on Lee’s bag permanently, starting at Tiger’s event next week. Mike is a top lad, a class act, and took Lee’s decision as we knew he would.” – Chandler, Lee Westwood’s manager, on Westwood’s decision to hire back caddie Billy Foster, after letting him go 18 months ago.  - 

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Staked to a one-shot lead to begin the third round of the McGladrey Classic, Chris Kirk struggled to get his round going Saturday at the Seaside Course.

Once the birdies began to fall, though, the 28-year-old quickly saw his name return to the top of the leaderboard, as he now holds a share of the lead heading into the final round after a 2-under 68 Saturday.

“The first 12 holes were a little bit frustrating,” explained Kirk, who shares the 54-hole lead with Briny Baird at 10-under 200, one shot clear of three players. “I didn’t feel like I was playing that poorly at all. I missed one green in those 12 holes, and I was playing pretty solid golf … just couldn’t quite get a number right, and I couldn’t quite read a putt right.”

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Two over on his round through 12 holes, Kirk finally carded his first birdie of the day at the par-4 13th. That was followed by birdies on each of the next two holes, with a final birdie on No. 18 securing the Georgia native a spot in Sunday’s final group.

“This course in particular can frustrate you like that, just because there are no real ‘gimme’ birdie holes out here at all,” said Kirk, whose lone PGA Tour win to date came at the 2011 Sanderson Farms Championship. “Thankfully I did stay pretty patient.” 

A former resident of Sea Island, Kirk moved back to the Atlanta area just six weeks ago. He now will prepare to return Sunday to the Seaside Course, a layout he estimated he has played nearly 300 times, with hopes of taking home the trophy.

“Just keep hitting solid shots and stay patient like I did today,” Kirk explained when asked about his approach for the final round on a course where he has twice shot 62, albeit not in competition. “Hopefully it will come early and I’ll have a really hot front nine, but if not I’ll just try to make my birdies when I can get them.”