After 165 attempts, 36 year-old Lumberton, North Carolina native William McGirt finally won on the PGA Tour. And when he did, it was in a tournament hosted by the legend Jack Nicklaus. The field also included the top three golfers in the World rankings.
McGirt had put himself into agre at position to win the tournament on the Saturday, after he shot a superb round of 64, including seven birdies an eagle and one bogey.
In the final round, as the weather turned in the players, McGirt managed to hang in there, shooting 71 and into a tie with Jon Curran. The sudden-death playoff went a further two holes before a par sealed victory, and a huge winners check for $1.53m.
To say that it’s the biggest win of his career would be a huge understatement. He has won previously, when he won the 2007 Cabarrus Clasic on the Tarheel Tour, where the winner received a paltry $16,000. Now he’s got a 3-year PGA Tour exemption, plus a spot in the field for next week’s US Open at Oakmont Country Club. That will be his first ever appearance, and only his 2nd Major Championship appearance, having failed to make the cut in the 2012 USPGA.
Host Jack Nicklaus was full of praise for the way McGurt handled the conditions on the final day saying to him, “The golf course gave up birdie after birdie after birdie, and then all of a sudden, a little teeth got into it coming down near the end, and you just stayed dead steady right on track and kept on going. That’s what it takes to win golf tournaments. I’ve won, I don’t know how many tournaments. I won half of my golf tournaments watching everyone else self-destruct. I didn’t win them. They just self-destructed, and that’s the way you win.”
“The few times I’ve been in this position, everything sped up, but I learned what my tendencies were,” McGirt said. “So I knew starting today I needed to walk as slow as I possibly could all day long. And the same thing on my golf swing, I knew I needed to try to swing as slow as I possibly could. It’s just been years and years of practice and getting your nose bloodied and learning from it.”
“I’ve had chances over the last few years. I’ve really started to believe in what I do and my ability to play this game, and that’s been the biggest difference in my game.”