NORTON, Mass. -- Chris Kirk's second shot to the par-5 18th -- his ninth hole of the day -- was headed a little right of the pin.
And then ...
Well, let Kirk describe it.
"There's a rake," Kirk said. "They had these like old-fashioned, like thick wooden rakes here, that was probably 20, 25 feet from the hole next to that bunker. It hit that, bounced over the bunker, past the rough into the hazard right."
"Ended up trying to chop it there, and ended up hitting it over the green the other way. I was in bad position and it kept getting worse," he said.
By the time he finished the hole, Kirk had a double-bogey 7 and made the turn at even par and seemingly no momentum.
But the bad bounce evidently inspired him. He played his final nine holes in 5 under to shoot a 66 and move into contention in Friday's first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Kirk, who ranks 47th in FedExCup points coming into the week, was happy that he could shake off the bad result and not let his round get out of control.
"A little bit better attitude than I normally would have," he said.
His attitude was even better after he overcame a poor tee shot at his closing hole, the ninth, by draining a putt from 52-1/2 feet for an unexpected birdie.
"A little bit of justice for 18 today," he said.
Henrik Stenson ranks first in four major statistical categories in 2013. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
D.A. Points won the Shell Houston Open with a clutch 13-foot par putt on the 72nd hole on Sunday. Everyone will remember the story about Points using his mom's old putter. But don't forget about those wedges (we're pretty sure those aren't from mom, too). Points' scrambling was pretty tidy in Houston, especially in comparison to his stats from this season. We'll take a look at that and also this week's Valero Texas Open -- played at difficult TPC San Antonio -- by going inside the numbers.
1st Ranking next to Henrik Stenson’s name in four major statistical categories in 2013. … Stenson, who ranked 133rd in the world just eight months ago, has really turned his game around. He’s played five events in ’13 (four stroke play) and ranks first in driving accuracy (72.96 percent), greens in regulation (77.78 percent), scrambling (75 percent) and total driving. And now -- buoyed by a T2 at the Shell Houston Open, he’s headed to the Masters.
+1.989 That’s how many average strokes TPC San Antonio played over par at the 2012 Valero Texas Open. The AT&T Oaks Course was the fourth most-difficult course on the PGA TOUR last season. It was also the seventh most-difficult on TOUR in 2011 (+1.665). … There have been several renovations to the golf course in preparation for this week’s tournament -- in which Rory McIlroy is playing for the first time -- which includes alterations to the first, fourth, 10th and 12th greens.
6 This number is a reason to keep an eye on Ben Curtis at this week’s Valero Texas Open. It represents the number of defending champions from 2012 that have posted top-five finishes in 2013. Steve Stricker (2nd at Hyundai Tournament of Champions), Brandt Snedeker (T2 at Farmers Insurance), Bill Haas (T3 at Northern Trust), Hunter Mahan (WGC-Accenture Match Play), Luke Donald (T4 Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank) and Tiger Woods (Win at Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard) have carded T5s. Of course, four defending champs have missed weekend play. … Curtis, defending this week at TPC San Antonio, missed the weekend in Houston and has just a pair of T25s this season. So will it be feast or famine for him this week?
9 Number of eagles made this season by Chris Kirk, which leads the TOUR. … Yes, Kirk has an incredible nine eagles in 31 rounds. Not bad, considering Charles Howell III led the TOUR last season with 18 eagles in 98 rounds. Even more ridiculous, Kirk hasn’t even had an eagle in his past two tournaments or eight rounds. He had three eagles at the Sony Open in Hawaii and three at the Northern Trust Open. He also had a hole in one at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. It’s even more impressive when considering a player such as Lee Westwood has no eagles in 2013.
12 of 15 For you non-math majors that comes out to 80 percent, or Points’ scrambling percentage at Shell Houston, which ranked fifth in the field. … This essentially helped Points win his second career event on TOUR, as you may recall his incredible saves on the 17th and 18th holes in the final round. He got up-and-down from 43 yards out on 17 and made a 13-foot, 5-inch putt on the 18th to win. The 80 percent clip is also a dramatic improvement for Points. In 2013, Points ranks 116th in scrambling at 57.56 percent. He was T112 in 2012, at 56.50 percent.
146th Scrambling rank for Dustin Johnson in 2013, or a rate of 55 percent. … What’s the big deal, you ask? No, Johnson wouldn’t be a top pick to win a short-game contest on TOUR. But last season, he had improved dramatically from past years. He ranked 32nd in scrambling at 60.29 percent and 38th in sand saves at 53.85 percent. Not bad, considering the best he ranked in scrambling from 2008 to ’11 was 139th. Johnson has just three T25s in nine events in ’13, but poor scrambling stats haven’t affected Johnson much during his career. We’ll have to see if it affects him in '13.
169 feet, 4 inches Distance in putts made for Points in the first round of Shell Houston. … Points needed just 23 strokes on the greens during a first-round, 8-under 64. He gained nearly 5 strokes on the field average during Round 1. Points cooled off a bit on the greens, but finished the week 10th in strokes gained-putting. For 2013, Points ranks 152nd in SGP -- the reason he sought help with his putting and added his mom’s old putter to his bag.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open/Humana Challenge
Week 10: WGC-Cadillac/Tampa Bay Championship
Week 12: Shell Houston Open
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Brandt Snedeker has just made back-to-back birdies to open a three-stroke advantage during Sunday's final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Snedeker said Saturday evening that playing the par 5s well was key to mastering Pebble Beach -- and that's exactly what he's done so far. The Tennessean just two-putted for birdie from 20 feet at the sixth hole after making eagle on the second.
Snedeker then made a 16-footer for birdie at No. 7 to move to 17 under. Chris Kirk, playing in the penultimate group, is his nearest competitor after making an 8-footer at the fifth hole, his third birdie of the day.
Rookie James Hahn is hanging tough, as well, at 13 under. He's made two birdies and a bogey at the par-3 fifth and is 13 under.
After taking a triple bogey on No. 9 (pictured) Chris Kirk eagled the 18th to go 1-over on par 5s. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
By: Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
HONOLULU -- The last group on Sunday will be comprised of Russell Henley, Scott Langley and Tim Clark. That’s a pair of rookies and a veteran with victory at the 2010 PLAYERS Championship on his resume. It was critical for Clark to make his birdie putt on the 18th hole to get into that final group. He will be able to know exactly where he stands the entire round and detect any rookie nerves that may be present in Henley and Langley.
Putting: Scott Langley is tied for the lead because he is a good player but he has putted the grass off the greens this week with phenomenal efficiency. The rookie has made 403-feet, 8-inches in putts. He is 40 of 44 on putts measuring 10 feet or less. Langley has hit 37 of 54 greens to rank 44th in the tournament but he is second in total putts and No. 1 in strokes gained - putting.
It happens to everyone: Chris Kirk was 3 under and making a charge until a triple bogey on the par-5 ninth hole. He said two bad swings led to a pair of drops and the eventual eight. In fact, Kirk made a 20 footer just to salvage that triple. Maybe it was just the Golf Gods getting even. Kirk eagled both par 5s on Friday with putts of 3 feet or less. Kirk was back in form at the 18th, holing an eagle chip to shoot 68 and stand at 12 under.
Scrambling: Tim Clark has missed 14 greens the entire week and gotten up and down 13 times. He leads the tournament in scrambling, having played 54 holes with just one bogey. That came on the sixth hole in the third round when Clark missed from 8 feet, 11 inches.
Greens: Once again, the greens were receptive for the entire third round. The moisture content in the putting surfaces allows shots to hold the green. Officials have not watered this week but the naturally wet Hawaiian winter has the greens moist and lush which leads to birdie chances. As a bonus for golfers, the trade winds were a non-factor on Saturday. Winds were less than 10 miles per hour. The forecast calls for winds out of the northwest on Sunday, which could favor experienced players.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here .
2013 PREVIEW: Chris Kirk ranks 22nd on TOUR in par breakers but he went a year without really contending in 2012. Getting back into the hunt will be key as he seeks to make the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola for the first time.
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: Four top-10 finishes, including two ties for fourth, highlighted Kirk's sophomore campaign. He had to be pleased with the final one at the CIMB Classic, where he shot a bogey-free 63 in the third round and ended up tied with Tiger Woods and Brendon de Jonge. –- Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: Chris was very consistent during 2012. He made 20 of 27 cuts and won $1.2 million dollars. At one point, Kirk made 11 cuts in a row. What his season lacked was a big finish. He had three top-10s, but nothing better than a fourth at the RBC Canadian Open. I am sure he's disappointed in not winning for the second time on TOUR, but it is also nice to cash so many checks.-- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: Coming off a quietly steady season, if you can call four top 10s among 20 cuts made tiptoeing your way around the PGA TOUR. May have been a bit distracted early in the year due to the birth (and health-related concern) of his first child (in March), but he closed out the year with 11 consecutive cuts made and ranked fifth in birdies or better on par 4s. He's priced wonderfully for salary gamers at $1.197 million. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
SOCIAL MEDIA: Find him on Twitter
2012 QUICK REVIEW
Regular Season ranking
Final Playoffs ranking
|Best finishes||T4||RBC Canadian Open|
|By the Numbers
Cuts made: 20
Rounds played: 89
Top-10 finishes: 4
Money List rank: 78th
Driving distance: 73rd
Driving accuracy: 121st
Greens in regulation: 48th
Strokes gained-putting: 138th
Scoring average: 40th
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
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Check out the top five shots of the week from the Deutsche Bank Championship featuring highlights from Chris Kirk, Hunter Mahan, Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen, and Tiger Woods.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- Chris Kirk has adopted a go-for-broke attitude for the FedExCup Playoffs and it appears to be paying off.
He entered the Deutsche Bank Championship ranked 81st and needs a big week in order to move into the top 70 and make the field for the BMW Championship. Kirk got off to the kind of good start he needed, too, when he fired a 63 that left the Georgia grad one shot off Seung-yul Noh’s lead.
Obviously, 54 holes remain. But when the first round was finished, Kirk was projected at No. 9 in the FedExCup standings.
"I came in at 33rd last year and probably put a little too much pressure on myself," said Kirk, who finished the Playoffs in 2011 ranked 42nd. "But this year halfway through the season I was about 130th, so I played pretty well the few months before they started just to get in here, so I kind of just see it all as a bonus, however far I manage to make it."
Kirk started on the back nine and bogeyed No. 11 but answered with consecutive birdies and never looked back. The catalyst in the round was a 9-foot eagle putt at the 18th hole that was followed by birdie putts of 20 and 7 feet on the next two holes.
"That was huge for me, kind of scraping it around a little bit, kind of getting away with a few things and making some putts my first eight holes and I really made a good swing with my tee shot on 18 and even better swing on my second shot, and that kind of propelled me to playing a really solid nine," Kirk said.
Kirk ended the day with just 23 putts to lead the field in that category. The last was a clutch 12-footer to save par at the ninth hole and preserve sole possession of second place.
"I thought I hit a pretty nice second shot in there, but having to hook it around those trees it just landed a little hot and didn't hit a great chip, but making that putt definitely makes me feel a little better," Kirk said. "I've putted reasonably well for the last few months. It wasn't great last week, but these greens are just so perfect here, if you hit it on line, it's going to go in. So that kind of gives me a lot of confidence."