Elation for Kirk, heartbreak for Baird on wild Sunday at The McGladrey ClassicNovember 10, 2013
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Chris Kirk had never played particularly well at Sea Island Golf Club, until it mattered the most.
A former resident who still keeps a house here, Kirk shot a final-round 66 to win by one Sunday at The McGladrey Classic.
He also got more than a little help from Briny Baird, who hit his approach shot from a fairway bunker on the final hole into the water to help hand the trophy to Kirk.
The win was the second of Kirk’s career and first since 2011, though where it came was more important than how.
"To come here to Sea Island, which is a place that I love and cherish so much, and Davis (Love’s) tournament, it just an unbelievable thing," Kirk said. "Davis was kind of my guy when I was 12 and 13, really starting to play golf. He was my favorite player, and he's turned from being my idol to sort of a mentor and good friend. So I'm a very lucky person to be in that situation, and to win his tournament really means a lot to me."
Kirk first met Love as a sophomore in high school and his parents have a picture of the two of them on their mantel to this day. After Kirk was presented the trophy by Love on Sunday night, they’ll have another one to add.
It didn’t always look that way, however.
Baird went from trailing by two to leading by one in a span of two holes on the back nine, and the 41-year-old looked like he might be headed for his first career win when he reached the par-5 15th in two and had a chance for eagle.
Kirk, meanwhile, had pulled his approach left and into the water and was facing a lengthy par putt.
Instead, Baird ran his eagle putt 4 feet past the hole and three-putted for par -- while Kirk made his 20-footer to save par and stay within one.
"That kept me in it," said Kirk, who two holes later pulled even with a birdie.
Tim Clark closed with the best score of the week, 62, ahead of both Kirk and Baird but the South African came up a stroke short and had to settle for a tie for second.
Meanwhile, it was just another case of heartbreak for Baird, despite a final-round 67.
The veteran has made as many starts on the PGA TOUR as there are days in a year. He has never won any of them, and this was his sixth career runner-up.
"It's disappointing," said Baird, who has more in career earnings than any active player without a win. "I fought really, really hard. I really did. I didn't play particularly well today. I hung in there really good. I made some putts when I needed to make some putts. Disappointing. It really is."
Baird’s bogey on the 18th might have cost him the tournament, but the 25-footer was good for $480,000 and secured his card for the rest of the season. He was on a major medical extension from having surgery on both shoulders in 2012 and the stroke was worth a difference of $220,000.
"There's always a silver lining," Baird said. "Whether I made that putt or missed that putt, I still would have said it was a good week."
It was a better week for Kirk, though.
The kid who grew up in Georgia is headed to the Masters for the first time, something he has dreamed about ever since he was 12 years old.
He also earns a spot in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January.
“There were a few times, (I started thinking about going to the Masters),” Kirk said. “Even when I sort of caught myself at one point of the tournament when I really knew that I was hitting it pretty good and knew that I was rolling the ball well.
“I could sort of tell on the putting green before I went and teed off, it was just kind of one of those days where the ball was rolling down my line, and it just kind of gave me the peace of mind all day. It's nice, those days when you feel like all you gotta do is read it right. That doesn't happen that often. But you're definitely thankful when it does.”