After playing a wild 72nd hole, Chris Kirk composed himself to record a birdie on his second try on No. 18, which secured a playoff victory at The Honda Classic 2023 over Eric Cole for his first PGA Tour win in nearly eight years.
“I was obviously very, very nervous today having not won in so long,” Kirk said. “Coming down the stretch, I felt good.”
Kirk entered the final round as the leader at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and had a one-shot lead over Cole going into the final hole. Kirk’s approach on the par-5 hole hit the rocks at the end of the green and bounced into the water. His bogey coupled with Cole’s par sent the tournament into a playoff.
Kirk’s approach on 18, which was used as the first playoff hole, was much better, and he tapped in for birdie. Cole’s 10-foot putt for birdie lipped out, giving Kirk his fifth PGA Tour win and first since winning at Colonial in 2015.
Both men ended the tournament with a 14-under 266, which is a new course record on the notoriously difficult Champion course.
Kirk talked about his struggles off the course with alcoholism and depression, which forced him to walk away from the PGA Tour from 2019-21. He’ll now be playing the Masters for the first time since 2016 thanks to the victory.
“I just have so much to be thankful for,” Kirk said. “I’m so grateful for my sobriety, I’m so grateful for my family, I’m so grateful for everyone that has supported throughout the past three or four years.”
For Cole, it was the best finish (by far) in 14 starts made by the 34-year-old rookie.
“I loved it. It was a lot of fun,” Cole said. “I can’t wait to get back and do it again. I didn’t have my best stuff today, and I was proud of how hard I fought.”
The surprises at the top of the leaderboard didn’t stop there. Tyler Duncan, who came in ranked No. 360 in the Official World Golf Ranking, finished third, two shots behind the leaders.
After shooting a 63 on Friday to make the cut for the first time in his career, Ryan Gerard finished fourth after carding a 67 on Sunday. Gerard, who qualified for the tournament on Monday, saw his career earnings on the PGA Tour go from $0 to over $411,000.
“It was unbelievable,” Gerard said of his entire week in south Florida. “It’s everything you could dream of. When you’re a kid practicing at night on a putting green, you’re like, ‘I have this putt to win a PGA TOUR event.’ It’s funny to say because I was just there four or five years ago in high school thinking about it, and now – I never had a putt to win, but I kind of felt like I had a chance coming down the stretch if I put some stuff together.”
Pre-tournament favorites included Shane Lowry and defending champ Sepp Straka. They both tied for fifth with Ben Martin, Ben Taylor, and Justin Suh, who led the tournament at the halfway mark but finished +1 in the final 36 holes.
After most of the top golfers skipped The Honda Classic, 44 of the world’s top 50 golfers will head to Bay Hill in Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Jon Rahm, No. 1 in the OWGR, will join Rory McIlroy and others as they look to dethrone defending champ Scottie Scheffler. Scheffler is 1-for-1 in title defenses after winning the WM Phoenix Open for the second straight year a few weeks ago.
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