05/24/2015

Late in the playing at Fort Worth’s home Tour event–Hogan’s Alley–a slew of contenders vied for one, notoriously hideous jacket. (I mean, it’s awesome in how gross it is. It’s curious to me how multiple jackets exist like this on Tour–at both the Heritage and Colonial. Someone please supply me with some commentary on this.)

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Among the contenders were a hometown Texas-native and blossoming PGA Tour star (Spieth), a curly-haired veteran seeking a second victory on the season (Snedeker), a hole-in-one milllionaire (Bohn), an overrated star (Poulter) and a cast of other hopefuls.

In the end, it was a former Ben Hogan award winner who emerged atop the rest. A fitting ending to a week that started by crowning (crowne-ing*?) the most recent recipient of the award, Arizona State’s John Rahm, on Monday evening.

The winning final score of 12-under par headlined a leader board that was a cluster…an absolute cluster. Players who finished a mere 6-strokes off the pace were lucky to gain even a top-25. Strokes gained came at a premium this week.

The Crowne Plaza Invitational is a favorite among Tour players lucky enough to play via invite. For Tour veteran Chris Kirk, it’s quite literally his favorite. The vibes were good for him.

In his post-victory interview, Kirk said the following.

“I’ve always loved this golf course. This has been my favorite tournament on the Tour since before I was on the Tour and came here for the Hogan Award ceremony.”

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Kirk, the most likely to say “enjoy your stay, they all do” when handing over your hotel room key, had assembled some fairly solid play recently. A T13 at the PLAYERS was respectable, absolutely. Valero he notched a top-10. Since the beginning of March he’d made all cuts except one. And his track record at the venue was strong. I admit though, I didn’t see a win coming.

Kirk is quietly the 23rd-ranked player in the world, a fact that continued to surprised me. This win was his fourth in his PGA Tour career (the graphic below shows his other wins) and first of the 2015 season. A final-round 66 was capped off with a clutch 5-footer for par on his final hole.

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And after every Tour event, we ask ourselves, what does the win mean?

Well to me, it puts Chris Kirk’s name again on the map of golf, a name that’s arguably one of golf’s most underrated. It headlines a second straight year with a victory for Kirk (only a few behind DJ’s 8). It also means the American Ryder Cup team may be welcoming yet another new face come 2016 (and with that putt on 18, I hope another ‘clutch’ player).

But when looking at the present and what the win means, it means Kirk can enter the final 3 majors of the 2015 season looking to add an exclamation point to a season that’s already considered a success in his book.

After all, winning on the PGA Tour should mean enough.