NORTON, Mass. – Chris Kirk picked up the biggest victory of his career Monday in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Still to be determined is just how big.
Kirk closed with a 5-under 66 in another wild Labor Day finish at the TPC Boston, coming up with three big putts on the back nine to pull away for a two-shot victory. Along the way, he made a strong case to be one of the three Ryder Cup picks that will be announced Tuesday.
Kirk played the final 36 holes with Rory McIlroy and outplayed the world’s best golfer. Of far greater importance was winning this FedEx Cup playoff event for his second victory this season. And he got it done with a bogey-free round.
“It’s my biggest win ever,” Kirk said.
Billy Horschel had a chance to at least force a playoff – and possibly win – when he stood in the fairway on the par-5 18th hole with a 6-iron in his hand. Horschel chunked the shot so bad that it barely reached the hazard, and he made bogey for a 69.
Horschel tied for second with 54-hole leader Russell Henley (70) and Geoff Ogilvy, who extended his unlikely run through these FedEx Cup playoffs. Ogilvy was the last of the 100 qualifiers for the Deutsche Bank Championship. He went 65-65 on the weekend without a bogey.
The top 70 in the FedEx Cup advance to the BMW Championship in Denver later this week. Ogilvy went from No. 100 to No. 24, and now stands a reasonable chance of getting to the Tour Championship.
Kirk won for the third time in his career, though never against a field this strong – and never with this much riding on it.
He was No. 14 in the Ryder Cup standings, five spots away from being an automatic qualifier. This victory could go a long way toward U.S. captain Tom Watson using one of his three selections on the 29-year-old from Georgia.
Kirk was trying not to think about that, saying he already had plans to be at the Georgia-Tennessee game the weekend (Sept. 26-28) of the Ryder Cup. But he would gladly break those plans for a trip to Scotland for golf’s version of the Super Bowl.
“I definitely put myself in contention for one,” Kirk said. “If I get picked great. If not, I’m still happy with my win today.”
McIlroy, who started the final round only two shots behind on a course where he won two years ago, fell back with successive bogeys on the front nine, bounced back with a pair of birdies, and then fell out of the mix by missing two short par putts early on the back nine.
He closed with a 70 and tied for fifth with John Senden (66).
Kirk took the outright lead for the first time with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole. He escaped trouble from deep rough on the 14th hole with a shot that bounced onto the green for a two-putt par. And right when it looked as if he was struggling with his swing, he saved par from a bunker with a 15-foot putt on the 15th. On the next hole, he made a birdie putt from just over 12 feet that gave him a two-shot lead.
He looked shaky over an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th that might have clinched it. Kirk didn’t make a birdie on any of the par 5s on Monday and finished at 15-under 269.
That left it to Horschel, in prime position for at least a birdie.
“The worst swing I’ve made all week,” Horschel said.
Horschel was at No. 82 in the FedEx Cup and began the week wanting to be among the top 70 to advance to Cherry Hills. He at least accomplished that much.
Seven players moved into the top 70, though none was more surprising that Ogilvy. Just eight days ago, he was home in Arizona believing his season was over.
But when Troy Merritt missed a 10-foot par putt and Brendon Todd made a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole, that combination sent him to Boston. And now he’s a decent week away from getting back into all the majors.
Jerry Kelly, his back aching, hit a 3-wood to 6 feet for eagle on the 18th hole.
That proved just enough – two points – to get the 70th spot and move on to Denver.
Kirk takes over No. 1 in the FedEx Cup, giving him a clear shot at the $10 million prize. The question now is whether his season ends in two weeks at the Tour Championship, or whether he will be in Scotland playing in his first Ryder Cup.