Kirk holds on for maiden victory in Mississippi|
Madison, MS (Sports Network) - Chris Kirk posted a four-under 68 on Sunday to
outduel Tom Pernice, Jr. and George McNeill for his first PGA Tour victory at
the Viking Classic.
Kirk became the fifth rookie to win on tour this season, joining Jhonattan
Vegas, Charl Schwartzel, Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley. It's his third win
as a professional after winning twice on the Nationwide Tour in 2010.
"It's amazing," Kirk said. "It's something I've been working for for a long,
long time, and to get it here was a little bit extra special. After (the
tournament) being nice enough to give me a sponsor exemption for me to make my
pro debut in 2007 a week after I turned professional, I haven't been back
since then. So to be back here now and get my first win here in the same place
where I had my pro debut is pretty cool."
Kirk finished 72 holes at 22-under 266 at Annandale Golf Club, which would
have tied the tournament record for a par-72 course that Steve Lowery, Skip
Kendall and Fred Funk all shared coming in; however, rainy conditions forced
lift, clean and place rules. Kirk had six birdies and two bogeys on Sunday.
Pernice (67) and McNeill (68) were in it until the very end, but couldn't
catch Kirk. Pernice had six birdies and a bogey in his search for his first
PGA Tour win since 2001, while McNeill had four birdies and is winless since
capturing the Frys.com Open in 2007.
"It's nice to stay in contention all week and to have a chance on the back
nine," said Pernice, who plays primarily on the Champions Tour. "I had a
chance on 18. The hardest part, I had a good wedge into that pin, and I had a
pretty good putt to look at it. So it's disappointing not to capitalize and
hit a good putt."
Bud Cauley (67), Hunter Haas (68) and Jim Renner (68) shared fourth at 20-
With all the groups going ahead of Kirk and the plethora of birdies, he didn't
get back into it until his first birdie of the day at the fifth.
That gave him a share of the lead with Pernice, and Kirk birdied the next hole
for his first outright lead of the afternoon.
The battle had just begun, however.
Kirk missed a three-foot par putt at the eighth hole, his first bogey since
the second round. Pernice was able to make it a two-shot swing with an 11-foot
birdie putt at the 10th, putting the Champions Tour regular atop the
McNeill and Kirk both birdied the 10th to create a three-way tie at 20-under
with Pernice, but Pernice's five-foot birdie putt at the 13th put him ahead
Kirk laid up at the par-five 11th and hit his third to within four feet. After
making birdie, Pernice's lone bogey of the day -- a missed five-foot par putt
at 14 -- created another two-shot swing and gave Kirk the lead.
Kirk, though, also bogeyed the 14th after his approach missed the green and
his 12-foot par putt was off the mark. Pernice moved back ahead with a birdie
at the 17th, while McNeill birdied the 16th to put the pair one shot ahead of
Kirk for the lead.
Pernice was unable to make a seven-footer for birdie at the 18th, which proved
costly in the end. McNeill, meanwhile, couldn't convert a 13-foot birdie
chance at 17 and missed the green at 18 en route to a par.
"I had a perfect putt up the hill six or seven feet for birdie," Pernice
recalled. "Just needed to make a good firm stroke, maybe just outside the
right edge and all that good stuff. Looked like I pulled it."
Kirk, though, made a final push with two birdies in a three-hole stretch to
move ahead for good.
Kirk's tee shot at the par-three 15th landed seven feet from the cup, and he
drilled the clutch birdie chance for a share of the lead. After missing a 16-
footer for birdie at 16, he went ahead for good thanks to an incredible
approach within five feet at the 17th.
Kirk sank the four-foot putt to get to 22-under, good for a one shot lead
heading into the last. Knowing he needed only a par at the par-five last, he
laid up, then hit his third to eight feet.
Kirk's birdie chance didn't fall, but it left him a tap-in par for the title.
"I made a three-inch putt to win. That's not exactly an accomplishment," Kirk
said. "All the other shots I hit were pretty good. I've always thought it was
kind of silly, to be honest with you, when a guy taps in from three or four
inches away and lets out a huge fist pump."
Sunghoon Kang, who was in the final group with Kirk, shot a two-under 70 to
finish in a share of seventh with Tommy Gainey (68) at minus-19. Shane Bertsch
(67), Blake Adams (69), Peter Lonard (71) and D.J. Trahan (71) all tied for
ninth at 18-under 270.
NOTES: This is only the second year since 1970 where five or more rookies have
won on tour, with the other coming in 2004...Kirk now has four top-10 finishes
this season, most among rookies...Kirk is the seventh player to make this
tournament his first win on tour...The PGA Tour moves to Canada next week for
the Canadian Open. Carl Pettersson made the cut on the number last year, then
closed with rounds of 60-67 to beat Dean Wilson by a single stroke.
07/17 18:36:19 ET