Chris Kirk made a clutch 15-foot birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a one-shot victory at the US$5.5 million McGladrey Classic in Georgia on Sunday.
The Georgia native took advantage of Briny Baird’s bogey at the final hole, making a tap-in par to secure his second victory on the PGA Tour.
He carded a 66 to finish at 14-under 266, while fellow American Baird (67) and South Africa’s Tim Clark (62) tied for second on 13-under at the Seaside Course on Sea Island.
“It’s been a long time coming since I won,” Kirk, 28, told PGA Tour Radio.
His only previous victory was at the 2011 Viking Classic (played on the same dates as The Open).
He collected US$990,000 and an invitation to next year’s Masters with the win.
Kirk once lived on Sea Island and though he now resides back in Atlanta, he was still able to take advantage of his local knowledge.
His hopes seemed doomed when he made a mess of the par-five 15th, where he pulled his second shot into a hazard and faced the likely prospect of falling three shots behind Baird, but a bout of anger after a mediocre pitch shot proved the perfect tonic as Kirk collected his emotions to sink an unlikely 20-footer to salvage par.
Baird still had a four-footer at 15 to go two shots ahead, but his putt lipped out on the left side and that mistake handed the momentum back to Kirk.
“I was a little upset, [but] I was able to calm myself down,” Kirk said. “That was one of the many times where home course experience helps you out. That putt is almost impossible to read to break left unless you’ve hit it multiple times and thankfully I have. I was able to hit it right in the middle. It definitely got me feeling better and I held it together from there.”
He did, curling in a birdie at the 17th to tie Baird, who subsequently hooked his drive into a bunker at the par-four 18th.
Knowing he needed to get a par, Baird ambitiously tried to reach the green with a four-iron, but topped his shot into a hazard and in the process handed the tournament to Kirk.
Even though Baird subsequently sank a long putt to tie for second, it was another bitter near-miss for the 41-year-old, who has finished second six times on the PGA Tour.
“It’s disappointing, it really is,” Baird said. “I fought really, really hard.”
Baird’s consolation prize of US$484,000 is enough to secure his playing rights for the rest of the 2013-2014 season.
Clark, meanwhile, stormed home with the day’s best round.
He was delighted with his best performance in a “long time” as he plays his way back into form after a serious elbow injury.
“My game might be back to where it was three years ago,” Clark said.