Chris Kirk wins PGA Tour’s season-opening Sentry

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Chris Kirk finds pure pleasure in golf from the work that is required and the way arduous it’s to succeed, and Sunday at The Sentry was loads tough.

A dozen gamers had been lined up behind him, all of them able to ripping off a low one. The circumstances had been so placid that the ultimate spherical at Kapalua produced the bottom scoring common (66.67) for the reason that PGA Tour began preserving detailed information in 1983.

Harder nonetheless was being tied for the lead, 209 yards away on the seventeenth gap with a gorge between him and the flag and a lightweight wind that felt prefer it was blowing each instructions.

Kirk went from a 7-iron to a 5-iron and hit what he considers one of the best shot of his profession to 2 toes for birdie that despatched him to an 8-under 65 and a 1-shot victory over Sahith Theegala.

“While you’re about to drag 7 and you find yourself hitting 5, that does not occur ever. That by no means occurs,” he mentioned. “So to have the ability to decide to it like I did and make that good of a swing was an unimaginable feeling.”

Kirk is completely satisfied to be competing once more after stepping away in 2019 for alcoholism and despair, and he capped his lengthy journey again final 12 months by profitable the Honda Traditional. This was one other huge step, beating a world-class discipline on a day when any miss was expensive.

Theegala stayed with him step for step till his 10-foot birdie putt swirled out and in of the cup, forcing him to accept a 63. Jordan Spieth was tied for the lead when his tee shot on the sixteenth plugged into the sand proper under the lip, in impact a 1-shot penalty. He narrowly missed a 15-foot eagle on the ultimate gap and shot 65 to complete third.

Kirk began the ultimate spherical with a 1-shot lead and needed to submit 65 to win by 1. That was arduous work. And there was lots of pleasure beneath that impassive demeanor.

There was a time when golf meant nothing to him as he cared solely about salvaging a life that had turn into depending on drink.

“I like the method of working to be one of the best participant that I can once I’m engaged on that, after which engaged on being pretty much as good of a father and husband as I can once I’m off the golf course,” he mentioned. “It is a fixed course of and I am simply loving each minute of it.”

It was the third straight 12 months the winner at Kapalua posted a Sunday spherical of 8 beneath or higher, and Kirk required no much less to win the PGA Tour’s season opener. Theegala began 2 pictures behind, shot 63 and it wasn’t fairly sufficient.

“It is actually arduous to be unhappy or upset about having a pleasant Sunday spherical,” Theegala mentioned. “Parring the final gap leaves somewhat little bit of a bitter style. Actually, nothing however positives. I felt like I stayed in it till the very finish.”

Kirk was tied when he hit 5-iron over the gorge to a proper pin on the seventeenth, the ball rolling out to simply over 2 toes for a tap-in birdie on the hardest gap on the again 9 of the Plantation course. That allowed him to play the 18th conservatively, realizing a par could be sufficient for his sixth profession PGA Tour victory.

He completed at 29-under 263 and earned $3.6 million from the $20 million purse, the primary of eight signature occasions within the new PGA Tour mannequin of massive purses and elite fields.

The 38-year-old from Georgia appears to be like as relaxed as anybody, match for the islands. His best win stays his restoration from alcoholism and despair, which led to him stepping away for six months of therapy in 2019.

The PGA Tour honored him with its Braveness Award — he was solely the sixth recipient — on the finish of final season. There was no higher approach to begin the brand new 12 months.

The victory assures him a spot within the Masters — he was simply exterior the highest 50 on the planet on the finish of final season — and permits him to guide a return journey to Kapalua to start out subsequent 12 months. He was making his first look at The Sentry in eight years.

“I am so grateful for these final 5 years. It has been unimaginable,” Kirk mentioned.

Spieth, who gained in 2016 at Kapalua, stayed within the hunt all day along with his 5 straight birdies across the flip. He caught as much as Kirk and Theegala with birdies on the 14th and fifteenth. After which his probabilities all however ended with one swing on the sixteenth.

“It was a full shot [penalty] at a fairly pivotal time,” Spieth mentioned. “However I’ve obtained to be somewhat tighter off the tee.”

Kirk may sense the significance of each putt, and the strain mounted when he missed birdie probability on the reachable 14th with a pedestrian pitch after which missed a pair of putts from 12 toes — for eagle on No. 15 and birdie on No. 16.

However he delivered the important thing shot on the seventeenth, a birdie that gave him consolation enjoying the 18th and its spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and the island of Molokai on the horizon.

Sungjae Im managed to get into the PGA Tour report books with 34 birdies for the week. The earlier report for a 72-hole match was 32 set 3 times, most lately final 12 months by Jon Rahm. That illustrates what sort of take a look at the Plantation course has turn into.

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