Coming off a career-best tie for fifth at last week’s True South Classic, William McGirt has kept that momentum going this week.
McGirt opened with a 63 on Thursday and has since moved into the lead by himself at the RBC Canadian Open, where he’s 3 under through nine holes in the second round.
Overnight leader Scott Piercy, who set a course record with a 62 in the first round, is currently a shot back, while Robert Garrigus is another stroke back.
For McGirt, he’s certainly making the most of an opportunity -- the top-10 finish in Mississippi is what earned him a spot in the field this week. Coming into the week, McGirt was 118th in the FedExCup standings with a month to go until the FedExCup Playoffs.
Others making a big move early in the second round at Hamilton G&CC: Patrick Sheehan and Bud Cauley, who are 4 and 6 under, respectively, and tied for fourth at the moment at 6 under.
British Open champion Ernie Els, meanwhile, is flirting with the cut. He’s 2 under through 12 holes and even on the tournament. The current projected cut is 1 under.
With the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival being held at the same time as this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Wesley Hodges of the Live Music Blog NOLA asked a few TOUR pros some music-related questions this week. What did Hodges find out?
That the best concert Rickie Fowler has ever seen was by Coldplay. That was also the first concert he ever attended. …
That Jason Bohn's rock-star encounter moment came during a round with KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer. “The nicest guy," Bohn said. "He just blew me away with his personality, what type of person he is considering the music he plays. It was one of the best times I’ve had playing golf with an amateur.” …
That the first album Harris English ever purchased was N-Sync's No Strings Attached. "I was 9 or 10," English said, "Probably played it on a Walkman or something. I don’t have a record player; have heard of the old 8-track though." …
That Brian Harman is supposed to meet country star Jason Aldeen this fall at a charity event. "I’m excited about that," Harman said. …
That William McGirt knows Darius Rucker. "My agent used to be the road manager for Hootie and the Blowfish," McGirt said. "(Rucker's) not bad -- you’ve gotta watch out for a guy who has two sets of golf clubs, one for the road and one that stays at home." …
That Chez Reavie practices while listening to U2 or Linkin Park. "That kind of genre," Reavie said.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- After two missed cuts in three West Coast swing starts, William McGirt is happy to be back in a familiar place. It’s showing in his play, too.
“For some reason, being on the West Coast for so long, I still never adjusted,” McGirt said. “I was still waking up at 4:30 every morning. But you get back into some familiar territory and on grass that you are very familiar with; I grew up on bermudagrass.”
McGirt’s turnaround began in earnest with a final-round 65 in Mexico. He struggled at The Honda Classic, where he tied for 62nd, but last week finished 14th in Puerto Rico.
It also helps that something clicked in his putting stroke -- his left shoulder was going straight up through impact and he’s since corrected that to get his shoulders to work more around his body.
Through two rounds here, McGirt ranks 14th in the field in total putts. Friday, he also hit 14 greens in regulation.
But being back on the East Coast and in the south on a course that rewards ball-striking is as big a reason as any that McGirt is in contention at the Copperhead Course.
So is the fact that this is the second straight year for McGirt on the PGA TOUR after earning his card via q-school. The hardest part of the game a year ago, McGirt said, was having basically one day to learn a new golf course every single week.
“Last year, one thing I tried to do was play practice rounds with veteran guys, and I've played a lot of practice rounds with David Duval,” McGirt said. “We would get on the green and he would throw balls around the green and say, you really need to practice from here; this is a popular spot; you really need to hit these putts.
“Just being able to pick his brain and get some good info helped me a lot. It's really probably paid off more this year than it did last year.”
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Earlier this year, William McGirt snuck into the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup when Justin Leonard missed a 13-foot par putt on the final hole of the Wyndham Championship. Now the putter is in McGirt’s hands in the final stage of q-school.
So far, so good. McGirt is 8 under and well inside the top 25 on the leaderboard through the first three rounds of the six-day tournament. Not that McGirt, in his third straight trip to the final stage of q-school, is all that interested.
“All I want to know is how many shots out of the lead am I because I’m trying to win this darn thing,” McGirt said after shooting a 2-under 70 on Friday. “I don’t want to finish 25th.”
It’s interesting logic from McGirt, and also different than most because all that matters in terms of getting a PGA TOUR card for next season is finishing in the top 25. McGirt’s thinking, however, is that if he’s trying to win and doesn’t then he has a lot better chance of being in the top 25.
After what McGirt’s been through, however, it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from. Three straight years in the second stage of q-school he had a putt on the last hole to reach the final stage. Three straight times he missed it with his ball twice lipping out and another time burning the edge. Last year, he successfully navigated the final stage and tied for second. The year before, he didn’t, tying for 90th.
It’s moments like these why McGirt’s wife, Sarah, stayed home.
“The thing out here is [bleep] happens,” said McGirt, who added that one trip to q-school at Bear Lakes in 2009 was enough for his wife. “You think you know someone really well, but out here you see a different side of people. Sometimes you have to get it out of your system. I’ve slammed my share of clubs. You can’t let it build up inside of you. You have to let it out sometime.”
Translation: Q-school is “the longest six days of your life,” McGirt said.
And even though he has partial status after finishing 141st on the money list, that’s not enough for McGirt.
“Everybody know what’s on the line here,” said McGirt, who has bounced around mini tours and the Nationwide Tour in recent years. “l’m fortunate that I have some starts next year, but they’re probably not going to be the ones I want to play.
“I want to get my job back full time. I feel the second time around is going to be a whole lot better.”
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As the morning wave finishes on a windy Thursday, there is big group at the top of the leaderboard that includes the No. 1 player in the world.
Luke Donald, who is bidding to wrest the PGA TOUR money title from Webb Simpson, is among six players shooting 66. Simpson, who played with Donald, is two strokes back in the spirited competition.
“I know for most of the round I played a pretty solid round of golf today,” Donald, who trials by $363,029. “Couple loose shots at the ed. Wasn’t that easy out there. I think the wind was strong enough to make it a little bit tricky with club selection.
“Six birdies, no bogeys is always a good round.”
The last time the money title changed hands in the final week of the season was in 1996 when Tom Lehman overtook Phil Mickelson at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Two of the other leaders have their 2012 PGA TOUR cards at stake. James Driscoll came into the week ranked No. 125 on the money list while Nathan Green is No. 175.
Two of other three players tied at 6 under picked up their first TOUR wins this year – Scott Stallings and Gary Woodland – while Arjun Atwal broke through in Greensboro last season.
ORLANDO -- The pressure William McGirt feel this week is like the bottom of the seventh in Game 7 of the World Series. Well, maybe the bottom of the eighth.
"At least I have the finals of q-school," he said.
"Let's embrace it and see what we can do with it," said McGirt, who enters the Fall Series finale at Disney ranked 138th on the money list.
The rookie from North Carolinian has done the math. McGirt thinks he needs to finish solo sixth or seventh to climb into the all-exempt top 125 on the money list.
If he doesn't, though, McGirt would likely get between 12-15 starts next season playing out of the 126-150 eligibility category. And as he mentioned, he'll be exempt into the finals of q-school where he can also improve his spot in the pecking order.
Besides, McGirt has felt the pressure before. He entered the Wyndham Championship ranked 127th on the money list and played his way into the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup -- where he lasted until the Duetsche Bank Championship.
"All year, it seemed like I put myself behind the eight-ball on Thursday and had to play well on Friday," McGirt said. "Even the cuts I've missed, I missed a bunk of cuts by a shot, but I've given myself a chance.
"Greensboro, I didn't play all that well but I played well enough. My back was firmly up against the wall at Barclays. Only had one way to go and that was up. Fortunately for me I played well.
"It's not a new position for me so I just kind of embrace it and try to make the best of it."
McGirt says he'll have to take more chances this week on the Palm and Magnolia courses. He'll be aggressive on the par 5s and hope his putter cooperates.
"Who knows?" McGirt said. "It's Disney. ... (We'll) see if we can't make more magic happen."