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Denny McCarthy ‘heartbroken’ after runner-up at the Memorial

4 Min Read


Denny McCarthy ‘heartbroken’ after runner-up at the Memorial

Falls in playoff to Viktor Hovland after bogey on 72nd hole, still chasing first TOUR title

    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    For 71 holes at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, Denny McCarthy solved the Muirfield Village riddle better than anyone.

    Standing on the par-4 18th tee Sunday at Muirfield Village GC outside Columbus, Ohio, the stage was set for McCarthy to cement his first TOUR title amongst a star-studded field. But then he pulled his drive into thick rough, forcing a layup that led to a bogey. He matched Viktor Hovland at 7 under. Then his second shot on the first playoff hole rolled back off the front of the green, leading to another bogey. Hovland made a 7-footer for par to win at Jack’s Place.

    Viktor Hovland wins in a playoff at the Memorial

    As Hovland celebrated, McCarthy headed to greet tournament host Jack Nicklaus for a customary handshake. A quiver could be detected in the voice of McCarthy, 30, who was seeking his first TOUR win in 157 starts.

    Nicklaus offered his condolences. Rather than projecting despondency, though, McCarthy looked the 18-time major champion dead in the eye and offered a confident assurance.

    “I’ll be back,” McCarthy said, nodding his head. Then one more time, for emphasis.

    “I’ll be back.”

    Not to imply, though, that he wasn’t emotionally moved. McCarthy wanted this one. This marked his 45th top-25 finish on TOUR; he might not have previously been in this exact situation, but he had been building toward this moment. Propelled by his premier putting, he had established a reputation as one of the best players yet without a TOUR win. All that remained was closing one out.

    This week, one shot away.

    “I’m heartbroken right now,” McCarthy told the assembled media in the Sunday twilight. “It really sucks. I thought this was going to be the week … It really sucks, because I haven’t been quite this close to the door to knock it down, but I’ve put myself in a spot with a chance to win a number of times, and it hasn’t happened yet.

    “But just got to keep working really hard. I know a lot of good golf is very close by.”

    McCarthy began the final round of the Memorial in fourth place, one stroke back of 54-hole co-leaders Rory McIlroy, Si Woo Kim and David Lipsky. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler made a Sunday charge, carding 5-under 67 – the day’s low round by three strokes – to post 6-under total, just one stroke outside the eventual playoff. Hovland steadily climbed the board with a 2-under 70.

    Denny McCarthy uses nice approach to set up birdie at the Memorial

    But the University of Virginia alum, who first earned his TOUR card via the 2017 Korn Ferry Tour, moved atop the board with three birdies in his first seven holes and made 10 consecutive pars on a grueling, increasingly firm Muirfield Village layout to maintain pole position to the 72nd hole.

    McCarthy and his longtime caddie Derek Smith – the duo first worked together on the Korn Ferry Tour – remained calm and relaxed, outwardly at least. Smiles were plentiful down the stretch, even on the fateful 72nd hole.

    “I like being in that moment … that's exactly what I want to be playing golf for,” McCarthy said. “I was definitely nervous, and I definitely had some adrenaline, but I feel comfortable in that situation. I love that aspect of being a competitor, when it starts to feel a little uncomfortable, how can you control that? How can you manage your emotions out there?”

    McCarthy had 23 feet for par in regulation to win the tournament; the putt slid 5 feet by, requiring a knee-knocker to force a playoff at 7 under. He drained it on the left side. Facing a 12-footer for par in the playoff, though, he could not convert; the ball skimmed the edge of the cup. Hovland two-putted for par from 58 feet to earn his fourth TOUR title. The Norwegian joked with Nicklaus that a couple of libations might be in order.

    McCarthy quietly returned his ball to his golf bag before meeting with Nicklaus. He’ll look forward to validating those words, uttered just before he walked up Muirfield’s closing hill for the final time this week.

    “I’m a really fierce competitor, and I never give up,” McCarthy said. “You guys probably saw some of that this week …

    “I don't know the last time I've felt quite that amped up, but this can only help me. I'll use this as a learning experience to try and get better.”

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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