Chris Kirk pulls out signature win at The Sentry

January 8, 2024 4:13 pm

[Source: Reuters]

Chris Kirk birdied the 15th and 17th holes to polish off an 8-under 65 and kick off the PGA Tour season with a win at The Sentry in Maui, Hawaii.

Kirk was the 54-hole leader at the Plantation Course at Kapalua and expanded his advantage Sunday with six birdies in his first 11 holes. After Sahith Theegala made a charge on the back nine, Kirk dialed in his second shot at the par-4 17th to 2 1/2 feet.

The ensuing birdie let him finish at 29-under 263, one stroke ahead of Theegala. Kirk made just one bogey the entire week in order to claim $3.6 million of the $20 million purse at the first signature event of 2024.

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Kirk nearly hit a 7-iron at No. 17 before changing his mind due to shifting winds and choosing his 5-iron.

“I’m very proud, very, very proud of that shot, that I was able to make the right call and that’s — talk about a tough shot to commit to,” Kirk said. “When you’re about to pull 7 and you end up hitting 5, that doesn’t happen ever.”

No. 52 in the world ranking this week, Kirk won the Honda Classic in February 2023 to end an eight-year drought between PGA Tour victories. He took a leave of absence in 2019 to address mental health and addiction issues. Now he has his second win in 11 months.

“It’s a hundred percent the reason why I’m able to do what I do,” Kirk said. “I’ve said that a lot, but there would be — my PGA Tour career would have been over a while ago, had I not gotten sober.”

Theegala rang up 10 birdies and eight pars for a 63 on Sunday but had to settle for second.

“Last year I was hurt during the offseason, didn’t play any golf,” Theegala said. “This year I got a lot of work in, in the gym, a lot of work in with my coach and felt so ready for this event. I was so pumped for this event, and obviously with the signature events and all that big deal, I knew it was important to get off to a fast start. Yeah, finishing second here is going to be a really nice boost for the rest of the West Coast swing.”

Jordan Spieth (65 Sunday) got in the mix before finishing in third at 27 under. He lamented misreading a 14-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th, though even that wouldn’t have been enough to catch Kirk.

“If you told me (I’d shoot) 8 under at the beginning of the day, I would have thought Chris probably betters 6 under, but playing with the lead in the last group, maybe 8 was in a playoff, was kind of where my head was at,” Spieth said. “There was just some phenomenal golf played everywhere.”

Byeong Hun An of South Korea went 5 under for his last six holes — one eagle, one bogey, four birdies — to shoot a 66 and place fourth at 26 under.

South Korea’s Sungjae Im (63) joined Scottie Scheffler (66), Collin Morikawa (65), Brian Harman (64) and J.T. Poston (65) in a tie for fifth at 25 under. Jason Day of Australia (67) and Xander Schauffele (68) finished T10 at 24 under.