Planet Golf — 24 February 2023 by GW staff and news services
Kirk ends eight-year winless drought

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Chris Kirk waited nearly eight years to win a PGA Tour event again. Waiting one more hole on Sunday was no problem.

Kirk stuck his approach to the par-5 18th to tap-in range, and his birdie on the first hole of a playoff lifted him past Eric Cole for the victory at the Honda Classic on Sunday.

Cole had a chance, playing his third shot from the sand to just outside of 10 feet for a birdie that would have extended the playoff. But it lipped out, and Kirk nudged his ball in for his fifth career win — his first since prevailing at Colonial in 2015.

“I was obviously very, very nervous today having not won in so long,” Kirk said. “Coming down the stretch, I felt good.”

And he’ll be the last Honda winner. The car company is ending its title sponsorship of the event after 42 years, with a new sponsor set to be in place — the PGA Tour hopes, anyway — in the coming weeks.

They finished 72 holes tied at 14-under 266, Kirk shooting 69 on Sunday, Cole shooting 67.

Kirk earned $1,512,000 for the win, and is now eligible to play the Masters again for the first time since 2016. Cole earned $915,600 for the runner-up finish, a check that more than doubles what the 34-year-old has earned in 14 previous tour starts.

“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.”

Kirk went to the par-5 18th with a one-shot lead. His tee shot found the fairway. His second shot found the water, leading to bogey. Cole made par, giving Kirk new life in the playoff.

“Bad swing at the wrong time. … Thank God it worked out,” Kirk said.

Kirk hadn’t held a trophy since 2015. That’s not to say he hasn’t done any winning in that span.

He walked away from the game in May 2019 because of alcoholism and depression. He struggled with anxiety, struggled to deal with pressure, even though he had a penchant for making it seem like no big deal on the golf course — he was a four-time winner, plus made a big putt to help the U.S. win the Presidents Cup at South Korea in 2015.

The tour gave him a major medical extension for the time he missed, meaning he had a set number of tournaments to do well enough to regain his full status. He got it back by the slimmest of margins at the Sony Open in 2021.

And now he’s a champion again.

“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.”

Tyler Duncan, ranked No. 360 in the world coming into the week, shot 66 on Sunday and was third at 12 under. Monday qualifier Ryan Gerard, playing the weekend for the first time on the PGA Tour, shot 67 and finished fourth at 10 under.

Gerard’s career earnings on tour went from $0 to $411,600. His plans for the next few weeks might be changing based on this finish.

“I’ve got to go book some flights and hotel rooms, swipe the credit card,” said Gerard, who came into the week ranked 472nd in the world. “We’ll see what happens.”

Defending champion Sepp Straka (68) was in a group tied for ninth at 9 under, with all four of his rounds in the 60’s. Also in that group: Shane Lowry, who had a chance to win the Honda last year and finished with an even-par 70.

“I played lovely, and I just couldn’t get it going,” Lowry said.

DIVOTS: It was the first playoff for both Kirk and Cole. … Jhonattan Vegas had the round of the day with a 64, getting to 5 under. He started birdie-birdie-eagle, made a 50-footer for double bogey on the par-3 15th after his tee shot found the water, then made a 36-footer for another eagle to cap the round. … Billy Horschel (72) battled through sinus issues and finished 2 under for the week, after having a share of the first-round lead. The Florida native still hasn’t won a tour event in Florida, now 0 for 40.


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Chris Kirk’s last win on the PGA TOUR was nearly eight years ago. He’s put himself in a position to change that at The Honda Classic.

Kirk battled his way to a 4-under round of 66 on Saturday, putting him at 13-under 197 for the week and giving him a two-shot lead over Eric Cole (66) through three rounds at PGA National.

His last win on TOUR was at Colonial in 2015 — 180 tournaments ago. He’s a four-time winner on TOUR, played in the Presidents Cup in 2015, and has been waiting to hoist a trophy again since.

Kirk made a wild birdie on the last, after his second shot on the par-5 18th wound up next to the grandstand and underneath someone’s bag that was left against structure. He got a drop, chipped on from there and made the putt to restore a two-shot lead.

Cole stayed in the mix with his second consecutive round of 66.

“It’s awesome,” Cole said. “I’ve never played this event before. Tried to qualify a bunch of times … I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

Justin Suh holed out from the fairway for an eagle on the par-4 12th, and is alone in third at 10 under. He shot even-par 70 on Saturday.

Shane Lowry (65) is 9 under, and right in the mix after having a chance to win The Honda Classic last year until the 72nd hole. He’s tied with Ben Taylor (69).

“If I can just hang around all day, hopefully I can give myself a chance coming down the stretch,” Lowry said. “I think I did what I needed to do today.”

Among those lurking: defending champion Sepp Straka, who followed opening rounds of 69 and 68 with a 66 on Saturday. He’s 7 under for the week, six shots back. It was Straka’s sixth consecutive round in the 60’s at PGA National.

“It’s a tough test, but if you’re hitting it good, you can score,” Straka said.

Straka went to Georgia, as did Kirk. When Straka got his first win at Honda a year ago, Kirk was one of the players who braved an intense rainstorm to congratulate Straka when it was over.

“We stay together all the time. He’s usually the guy that gets us a house,” Straka said. “I’ve gotten to know Chris very well over the last few years, one of my best friends. He’s been playing great golf for a couple years now. It’s not surprising to me, especially around this course.”

Sunday is a big day for two players with a shot of qualifying for THE PLAYERS Championship by getting into the top 50 in the world. Min Woo Lee struggled to a 73 on Saturday and is tied for 58th at even par through 54 holes; Adrian Meronk is tied for 20th at 4 under.

Lee started the week No. 47; Meronk started No. 53.

Ryan Brehm (64) made a big move Saturday, starting the round tied for 60th and finishing tied for 15th at 5-under 205.

Akshay Bhatia needed a new outfit after playing a ball from the water. He went shirtless for the shot – one of two shirtless escapades during his round — getting covered in mud, and his girlfriend brought him a change of clothes. “It was really gross. Really, really gross,” Bhatia said.


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — There have been about 7,200 rounds played at the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National 17 years ago.

Only two of those were better than the one turned in Friday by Chris Kirk.

Kirk shot an 8-under 62 in the second round, moving him to 9 under for the week and one shot behind Justin Suh (64) at the tournament’s midway point. Kirk had an eagle and six birdies, hitting 16 greens and taking advantage of no wind blowing in the morning — very rare for PGA National.

“Usually we’re playing for 15-, 20-plus yards of hurt going into the wind shots, and 15, 20 yards of help on downwind shots,” Kirk said. “It’s really difficult to get those just right when it’s really windy. But today there was hardly a breath most of the round, and so it became a little bit more target practice.”

Suh had four consecutive birdies on holes 8 through 11, rolling in putts from 5, 15, 25 and 30 feet in that span, to post a 36-hole total of 10-under 130.

“I think we’ve been trending in the right direction,” Suh said. “Every week I’ve been improving and just certain spots, and I think it’s gratifying just to see the progressive work pay off.”

There was no shortage of players taking dead aim. Ryan Gerard (63) and Ben Taylor (65) were tied for third at 8 under. Ben Martin (64), Eric Cole (66) and Brice Garnett (64) were all another shot back.

“Anything around here around that par or below, you can’t be too upset about,” said U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson, who celebrated his 47th birthday with a 67 to get to 5 under for the week.

Gerard was a Monday qualifier. This is only his second PGA Tour event as a pro, and his first made cut.

“I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” Gerard said. “This is my dream ever since I was a little kid, just playing PGA Tour events. I’m still on the road there, not officially made it yet, but I just really enjoy playing golf. I love everything about it. I love the competition. I love challenging myself. I love playing against the best players and seeing how I stack up.”

Shane Lowry shot his second consecutive 68, highlighted by a 57-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th — his ball staying on-line even after rolling over another player’s coin on its way to the hole.

Two players on the cut line couldn’t finish the final hole of their second rounds because of darkness. Brett Drewitt had 112 yards remaining after two shots on the par-5 18th; Pierceson Coody did not play the par-4 9th. Par or better will get them both to the weekend; bogey or worse will keep them from making the cut.

They were scheduled to resume their rounds Saturday morning.

DIVOTS: The only sub-62 rounds at the Honda since it moved to PGA National came from Brian Harman (2012) and Matt Jones (2021). Tiger Woods had a final-round 62 in 2012 at PGA National and finished tied for second, two shots back of Rory McIlroy. … Kyle Stanley hit his tee shot on the par-3 15th into the water, took a drop, then holed out with a wedge from 95 yards for par. … Jhonattan Vegas tapped in for birdie on 18 and made the cut on the number at 1-over 141. … Defending champion Sepp Straka had two birdies and 16 pars Friday. He’s 3 under. … Joseph Bramlett and Billy Horschel both shot 65 on Thursday to be in a tie for the lead; both shot 73 on Friday.


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Billy Horschel has never won a PGA TOUR event in his home state of Florida. His quest to change that is off to a fine start.

Horschel shot a 5-under 65 on Thursday, tying him with Joseph Bramlett for the first-round lead in The Honda Classic at PGA National. Bramlett had a bogey-free round; Horschel had six birdies and one bogey.

“Just played really solid,” Horschel said. “Didn’t do anything special. Hit some quality iron shots here and there. I wouldn’t say everything was sort of automatic and it was easy. I had to just sort of work my way into making some good swings here and there. But overall, it was a really solid day of golf.”

Horschel’s pre-Honda preparations included a trip to the doctor, finally giving in and getting a prescription after trying to fight off a sinus infection for a few days. He might have felt tired, but it didn’t show.

The 65 was his best score in 33 rounds as a professional at PGA National. He’d shot 66 on two previous occasions.

“Listen, there’s no secret,” said Horschel, who played his college golf at Florida. “It’s not a secret. I grind. I work hard. It’s no secret out here that I work really, really hard out here. But this week with just the way I’m feeling and everything, energy’s still not completely 100 percent every day.”

Bramlett scrambled nicely when he had to. He missed six of 14 fairways and hit 13 of 18 greens.

“I definitely like when the conditions are difficult and guys have to really earn it,” said Bramlett, who has never won on the PGA TOUR. “I think that’s historically always been in my favor.”

Pierceson Coody — a sponsor exemption playing his first PGA TOUR event as a professional — finished the first round at 4 under, alongside Justin Suh. Coody has two wins in 15 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour since turning pro in June.

“It really just feels like another professional event,” the grandson of 1971 Masters champion Charles Coody said. “I’ve only played (15) professional events. But other than the big grandstands, it’s not that different. You’re just playing golf, you’re trying to put a good score together. No real nerves out there. Just happy to play well.”

Suh missed a 10-foot birdie putt on his last hole — No. 9 — that would have tied him for the lead.

Play was suspended for darkness just past 6 p.m., with seven groups still on the course. Carson Young was at 4 under with three holes left to play.

Past Honda champion Sungjae Im, the top-ranked player in the field, birdied the last and shot 3-under 67.

Past Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington played with the 2023 Ryder Cup captains, Luke Donald of Europe and Zach Johnson of the U.S. There was a bit of Cup talk during the round. “He’s a nice resource. He loves the Cup and represented it well,” Johnson said of Harrington. Johnson shot 68, Donald 71 and Harrington 72.

Defending champion Sepp Straka opened with a 1-under 69.

Monday qualifier Parker Coody, Pierceson’s twin brother, shot 74.

Related Articles


About Author

(0) Readers Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.