2023 Honda Classic leaderboard, grades: Chris Kirk breaks eight-year drought with emotional playoff win

Chris Kirk was the last man standing at the 2023 Honda Classic as he successfully fended off the cocky Eric Cole in the playoffs for his fifth career PGA Tour win and first win in over eight years. The final pairing took place on Sunday in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, when the featherweight bout took place on the grounds of the PGA National. Two players in their 30s entered the ring and only one remained when the game was over.

Starting the last round with a two-hit lead, Kirk quickly extended his lead to three with a birdie. Cole landed several body shots of his own as he rattled off three birdies in a row from 3rd to 5th to level.

This seesaw battle will continue into the inside nine as Cole jumps ahead for the first time all day with another birdie on par-13. A ghost two holes later knocked him off balance, and Kirk’s birdie backhand on the 16th placed the former Bulldog in two-man command.

After an exchange of pairs, both found a fairway on the 72nd hole before Kirk’s second shot hit the water. When Cole was unable to get his birdie up and down, Kirk used a scarecrow to force a playoff.

On the extra holes, Kirk set himself up for an eight when he missed a fairway, but a successful layup laid the groundwork. At 101 yards, the 37-year-old came close to touchdown distance. After Cole made a birdie from 10 feet away, Kirk’s fifth win was finally his.

“I was obviously very, very nervous today because I haven’t won in so long,” Kirk said. “I felt good, that hit at 16 was huge and I was in great position at 18. I just hit a bad shot at the wrong time, but I tried to stay aggressive and hit the middle of the green. in hindsight, it might have been better to hit him there, somewhere to the left, but, thank God, it worked out.

From a broader point of view, the PGA Tour could not be the best tournament scenario after two specific events on the West Coast. While this area lacked star power compared to TPC Scottsdale and Riviera, there were still plenty of storylines. Between Kirk and Cole battling a split-way on a treacherous golf course and a player like Ryan Gerard trying to go from Monday’s qualifying to a PGA Tour win, this “usual” event set off a heat wave.

“I can’t yet [describe this moment]Kirk said. “I have so much to be thankful for. I’m so grateful, I’m so grateful for my sobriety, I’m so grateful for my family, I’m so grateful for everyone who has supported me over the past three or four years.”

While the top prize of $3.6 million in the dedicated event is great and brings out the best players, a quality giveaway to players in this area is arguably more important. For Gerard, that meant a spot the following week at the Puerto Rico Open. For Cole, that meant job security in the form of much-needed FedEx Cup points.

Finally, for Kirk, this means that the climb after the indefinite leave of 2019 in search of help with alcohol is over.

“I think more than time [since my last win]how much my life has changed in that time, moving closer to four years of sobriety, and that’s the reason I’m able to play,” Kirk said. family. Everything I have is thanks to this. I have to remember this first and foremost, and eventually it will get to me, but definitely not now.”

It also means a trip back to Georgia. No, not to his alma mater in Athens, but rather to the Augusta National, where Kirk will be invited to the 2023 Masters for the fourth time in his career and the first time since 2016. Grade: A+

Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the 2023 Honda Classic leaderboard.

T5. Zepp Straka (-9): The defending champion started his weekend with four shots in a row in the third round, but failed to fully return to the fight. The good news for Strakay is that this finish marks his best finish on the PGA Tour since his playoff loss to Mackenzie Hughes at the Sanderson Farms Championship. The Austrian was known as a player who made mini dashes when he found his form – just look at last year’s FedEx Cup playoffs – and there could be another one in the near future. Rated excellent-

T5. Shane Lowry (-9): The Irishman has had a slow start to 2023, but the Honda Classic is another step in the right direction. Finding something on the Riviera, Lowry brought some magic from the West Coast to Florida. Lowry was unable to avenge his second-place finish last season but will still find solace in this performance. His stellar tee-to-green acumen has now been on display for two straight weeks, leaving him with only the stick, which has been a problem area for the past eight months, to sort out. Grade: B+

T40. Billy Horschel (-2): The former Florida Alligator started the week admitting that he is not in the mood and is resisting swing changes. Horschel took the lead in the first round from 5th to 65, but immediately fell back on Friday with the 3rd round. This back and forth movement, ups and downs reflects the beginning of 2023 for Horschel. There was some good, but the bad outweighed him as he has yet to make the top 20 in five tournaments. Grade: C

T40. Sungjae Im (-2): A busy game schedule may start to catch up with the South Korean. Since the calendar has moved to 2023, Im has only withdrawn from one event (the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) and is scheduled to play five consecutive weeks by the time the Players Championship ends. He was a real class in this area, and while his off-game numbers were promising, his approach and metrics were equally discouraging. Rating: C-

MS. Danny McCarthy (-): He lives down the street from the PGA National, so the early departure didn’t affect his travel plans too much. McCarthy remains without a win on the PGA Tour, and a relatively weak field at the Honda Classic proved to be the right moment for his breakthrough. He was unable to recover from 5 for 75 in the first round and will instead look for his first win elsewhere. Grade: F

Rick Geman was joined by Greg DuCharme, Mark Immelman and Patrick McDonald to wrap up the 2023 Honda Classic at PGA National and take a look at what happened at LIV Mayakoba. Follow and listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.


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