It was a victory we’ve all been waiting for if only because we could celebrate the most easy, perfect nickname in all of sports. William “Dirt” McGirt—and we mean that in a very positive way—outlasted upstart Jon Curran in a playoff to win the Memorial.
McGirt held his nerve for 20 holes, collecting one birdie and 19 pars to finish 15-under. The last two gave him his first career PGA Tour victory. And what a place to get it. Jack Nicklaus was there to shake the 36-year-old’s hand. It’s amazing to consider since he’s only made his mark the last few seasons, but McGirt has been a pro since 2004. Now 12 years later, he can call himself a winner on the biggest stage in golf.
Here are four takeaways from the Memorial:
McGirt Displays A Steely Nerve
People love to throw out cliches that football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey or whatever is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical or some other arbitrary pair of percentages.
In golf, that cliché may be truer than in any other sport. McGirt likely would have kicked himself if he knew he would birdie only one hole on Sunday.
But still, there’s something to be said for a player—an average one at that—who can win when he doesn’t have his best stuff. McGirt faced a 60-foot putt to take the tournament outright on 18. Instead, two strokes brought him into a playoff. When Curran wavered on the second hole, McGirt one more time carded a four.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 5, 2016
Most first-time winners fall into three main categories: young guns breaking through, players who have been knocking at the door for months, or journeymen who get hot at the right time. McGirt falls into the third of those categories, but there’s one thing he’s not—an underdog.
Sure, in comparison to the Spieth’s, McIlroy’s and Johnson’s of the world, McGirt falls well short of stardom. But so does most everybody. Think about it. If a player wins 10 tournaments over 10 years, that’s a wonderful career. In another way, that works out to a win every 30 or so starts. One in 30. And that’s for a very good player.
In other words, everyone comes out of nowhere. McGirt seized the opportunity this weekend when it came to him. Was it unexpected? Yes. It always is.
The Memorial Never Disappoints
It’s a rare thing in sport to advance through one’s life and career and remain relatively unscathed by scandal and controversy. It’s no different in golf. Yet Jack Nicklaus has succeeded one and off the course for nearly 60 years now.
Each season we return to Ohio and Jack’s tournament is a week long celebration. Even the rain couldn’t dampen the spirits through the weekend. We had a playoff, a first-time winner and big names in contention. Of course, the biggest name is always there.
The US Open is right around the corner…
While McGirt and Curran are far from household names, those directly behind them are bonafide stars. Dustin Johnson finished third at -14, Rory McIlroy T4 at -13. Even JB Holmes, who tied McIlroy, has a strong pedigree.
If you’re looking for three names to consider as Oakmont approaches you could do far worse than those three. Or perhaps you’d like to look further down the leaderboard to a collection of players in 20th place. There’s Smylie Kaufman, who played in the final group at Augusta. There’s Matt Jones, who threatened at the PGA last year. And there’s Phil Mickelson, 10-under-pad, with the belief and hope still in tact.