American Chris Kirk outplayed his playing partner Rory McIlroy and the rest of the field to win the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston. He closed the door with a five-under-par 66 to post 15-under 269 to win by two shots over Aussie Geoff Ogilvy and Americans Russell Henley and Billy Horschel. This was Kirk’s third win on TOUR and by far his biggest and he now has the full attention of Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson before he makes his three wild card picks Tuesday evening. There’s a Captain Kirk joke in there somewhere but I’ve had a long Labor Day weekend working. I grock for Spock.
Kirk and McIlroy played the “weekend” (Sunday-Monday) together at the TPC Boston and at the end Labor Day, Kirk did the work and fired 64-66 to McIlroy’s 64-70. He didn’t make a bogey in the final two rounds and only made four for the week. His opening round 73 (+2) looked to continue his pattern of a disappointing summer but after making two eagles to post 66 on Saturday (round two) he snapped back into the shape that saw him make 22 consecutive weekends from 2013 through the 2014 JDC. The pairing with McIlroy hardly bothered the former UGA Bulldog as he racked up 12 birdies in his final 36 holes to post the victory. His four bogeys (one double) were T2 on the week and it’s easy to see why he only made two of them. He was T7 in fairways, 11th in strokes gained-tee to green, fifth in strokes gained-putting and first in strokes gained-total. Not bad for a guy who began the final day two shots out of the lead with McIlroy and Jason Day all hovering at 10-under! He also showed his nerve holing big birdie and par putts coming down the stretch.
It was not bad at all coming from a guy whose best finish in a major or WGC event entering this week was T19 at this year’s Open Championship. Gamers have been waiting and waiting to see Kirk break out in a big event and this week they finally were rewarded with their patience. Gamers like me had their patience tested this summer as he followed a decent T28 at the U.S. Open with T45 at the not very difficult Greenbrier. He compounded the misery by MC at the JDC on another course where he should have dominated. He regained my attention with T19 at Hoylake but he pulled the football away with T41/MC/T53 run at the WGC-BI, PGA and Barclays. When a player isn’t playing well on courses that match their strengths and they aren’t firing on new tracks, it’s hard to endorse them. So it makes perfect sense that he would rack up his third victory and second of 2013-14 this week!
Actually, it does.
Kirk is no stranger to having to make birdies and hole putts. He’s struggled relative to 2013 this season to replicate his huge birdie or better performances and hot putting but it all came together this week out of the blue. This was his fourth trip around TPC Boston and he adds his W to T31, T35 and T16 last year. His lack of current form and lack of course history was the reason I wasn’t alone in omitting him this week.
With this victory, Kirk collects $1,440,000 and 2500 FedExCup points and leaps from No. 17 to No. 1 in the Playoff standings.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 26 of 43 events in 2013-14. The red, white and blue have gone back-to-back in the FEC Playoffs as Hunter Mahan and Kirk have secured the first two wins. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk (TWO), Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman, Brian Harman and now Hunter Mahan have won for the USA.
Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed six victories. Hideki Matsuyama and Seung-yul Noh are the Asian representatives. Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the European chalk that has won four of the last six majors dating back to the 2013 U.S. Open. Angel Cabrera and Camilo Villegas are flying the flag for South America; Tim Clark flies it for South Africa.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 43 events in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 20 of 43 leaders have gone on to win as Russell Henley joins the club of those who haven’t as he couldn’t close the deal with his one-shot lead.
Now, seven of the 12 winners of the DBC have been American. Kirk broke the Euros two year run (McIlroy, Stenson) by hoisting the silverware.
Chesson Hadley was the only rookie in the field this week. He handled the pressure quite well. #SNAPS
Jason Day is the only player to finish in the top 10 in the first two Playoff events this year. Read more below! Only Rory Sabbatini, Padraig Harrington and Dustin Johnson have managed this over all four Playoff events.
Henrik Stenson, last year’s champ, finished with a closing round 66 to finish T26. No player has successfully defended their title at TPC Boston.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. Ryan Moore (30), Zach Johnson (37), Kevin Stadler (33) and Bubba Watson (35), Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30), Matt Jones (33), all were victorious before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35), Justin Rose (33), Tim Clark (38), Geoff Ogilvy (37) Camilo Villegas (32) and Hunter Mahan, 32, have added to the prime-timers trophy case as the season moves along.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28) TWICE, Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), Brian Harman (27) and Rory McIlroy THRICE (25), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) and Argentine Angel Cabrera, 44, who won at Greenbrier, are the only two 40-somethings to claim victory this season. Senden gave it another big fight this week as he finished T5 to lead the “old” guys.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10.
Geoff Ogilvy: He almost pulled off his second win in four weeks (Barracuda) but his T2 moved him from No. 100 all the way to No. 24. His putter finally started to cooperate (10th in SGP and 11th in PPG) and his 65-65 finish couldn’t have come at a better time. He only made four bogeys as well (none in his final 40 holes) and one double on the week. He continues his excellent course form at TPC Boston as this is his fifth top 10 in just nine starts and his second T2. He entered the week off T46 at the PGA and MC at The Barclays.
Russell Henley: Lightning couldn’t strike twice this season for Henley as he tried to add another victory to his playoff triumph at Honda in March. Henley began the day with a one-shot lead of Horschel and two over Kirk, McIlroy and Day but couldn’t make it hold and it’s not a surprise if gamers look at his recent results. After his win at Honda, Henley has teed it up 16 times. He’s MC in half of them and his last top 10 was the first week in April in Houston. His last top 25 was at THE PLAYERS. He has a bit of Scott Stallings in him where he can pop up and contend at the drop of a hat but consistency isn’t a phrase gamers can use with him just yet. He entered the week off MC, T41, MC and T61 last week in New Jersey. This week he was second in total strokes gained and was first in strokes gained-putting. Racking up 20 birdies didn’t hurt either. Now it’s time to disappear again!
Billy Horschel: He was the only player in the top four to post all four rounds in the 60s this week but his, ahem, skank/shank/chunk from the fairway on the final hole kept him from winning outright or forcing a playoff. He missed an 11-footer for second alone. Horschel was upbeat/angry/happy/mad after the round about that one bad shot but he moves from No. 82 to No. 20 so he’ll advance to Cherry Hills next week. After a fantastic five tournament run in late spring (T26, T15, T6, T23 and T11), Horschel came into this week off MC, T58, T47 and MC last week. Horschel’s only win on TOUR was a TPC course, TPC Louisiana so it’s hardly surprising that a TPC course caught his attention. Watch for the TPC Louisiana trend as the column moves on!
John Senden: Last week’s T22 was his only top 25 since his T11-T5 Texas two-step in May. He closed with 66 and was heading to a course where he had finished T11, eighth, T21 and 12th in his last four. His T5 this week adds to that great run and he’s never MC in 11 tries. He moves up to No. 16 in the FEC Playoffs and guarantees a trip to Atlanta in his career year.
Rory McIlroy: Ah, that’s better. No front-nine 40s this week, just another top five. Greedy gamers will be appalled that he couldn’t win for the fourth time in five events because he was just two shots out of the lead entering Sunday. Put him in the corner and don’t let him come out until he wins again! BAD RORY! BAD BOY! Or just keep playing him until his starts are gone like a normal gamer…
Martin Kaymer: The German returns to the top 10 (T7) as his ball-striking returns to normal. A lame shoulder slowed down his summer after winning THE PLAYERS and the U.S. Open in the spring. I didn’t believe that a run of 70th, T56, MC and MC would immediately evolve into a top 10 with one of the toughest fields in golf. He moved from No. 23 to No. 15 and will test his skills at Atlanta as well. His ball-striking will come in useful next week at Cherry Hills.
Jason Day: His closing birdie knocked Robert Streb from No. 70 to No. 71 and out of the FEC Playoffs but gamers could care less about that. His closing birdie put him in the top 10, T7, but left gamers again this week with a bad taste. Last week Day led after 54 holes and could close the deal. This week he was just two back of Russell Henley and could only manage even par from the chase position. It’s hard to knock his T2/T7 Playoff start but gamers are tired of this “so close” song and dance. Make it three top 10s in his last five at TPC Boston.
Carl Pettersson: His bogey-free 66 saw him move into the magic top 70 at No. 66 after beginning the week at No. 93. His T9 was his first top 10 since his T7 just down I95 at The Travelers. Gamers had him penciled at his home course, Sedgefield, but he’s proven that he likes golf in the Northeast as well. Denver is not in the Northeast…
Jimmy Walker: He traded in his normally smokin’ putter for fairways galore this week and that’s the opposite of “normal” for Walker. He was fourth in fairways and led the field in strokes gained-tee to green. Walker usually struggles to find fairways but hits plenty of greens and makes tons of birdies. This week he was T25 in GIR but did rack up 18 birdies, good enough for T13. He only made two bogeys on the final 36 holes to bag his 11th top 10 in 26 events in his career year.
Robert Streb: The definition of cruel and unusual hit Streb this week as his eagle on the 72nd hole put him to No. 70 on the FEC list. Jason Day’s birdie on the same hole knocked him to No. 71. He moved up 27 spots but it wasn’t enough to make it to Cherry Hills. Streb was T2 at TPC Louisiana in his only other top 10 of the season. After finishing No. 126 last year and missing out on the FEC Playoffs, this year he misses out on the third event by one position. I’ll bet $5 that he’s No. 31 after the BMW next year! #pattern
Bill Haas: It’s now 26 of 27 for Haas as he paints the top 10 for the second time in three weeks. Luckily for me, I had him in OAD the week RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE!! My luck is long gone and I’ll be excited to get 2014 over and done with. Haas, on the other hand will not.
Chesson Hadley: Another from the top 10 that used a huge week to move into round three at Cherry Hills. Hadley’s T9 moved him from No. 84 to No. 67 as he is the only rookie left in the FEC Playoffs. This was his first top 10 since his March win at the Puerto Rico Open. He MC in six in a row before he finished 70th last week. #playoffpressure
Seung-yul Noh: The winner at this year’s Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana had not finished inside the top 30 until this week’s T9 since his victory. There are guys who enjoy TPC courses more than others. As I wrote in Range Rover, birdie-fests tend to bring in plenty of players but some on this list were in the wilderness before this week.
Webb Simpson: He might look back on his triple in round two or his double in round three as the reason he’s not on the Ryder Cup team. I believe the straw that broke the back will be not making a birdie in his final 11 holes when he was just a handful of shots out of the lead. His closing 71 kept him in the top 10 but it hardly inspired confidence of a player rounding into form. This is his second top 10 in four years at TPC Boston so he’s rounding into horse-for-course status.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Rory McIlroy: T5, see above.
Matt Kuchar: I suggested earlier in the week to many emailers that I could not endorse Kuchar this week in good faith after the death of his caddy’s wife. He played gamely but his result is hardly an indication of anything. He remarked after his round that it’s going to take a few weeks to get back to feeling normal. The funeral is this week and this will be weighing heavily on Kuchar moving forward. His prior results at East Lake don’t inspire any confidence either. All prayers and thoughts should be directed to Lance Bennett and his daughter during this impossible time.
Adam Scott: He’s made a million cuts in a row. He finishes in the top 16 every week. He always plays well at TPC Boston but his 73 in the opening round killed him. He remarked after his round that he didn’t play very well this week but his ball-striking was excellent (third in strokes gained-tee to green); his putter (T61, T54) was not. This was his worst finish since his T38 at THE PLAYERS and it was his third straight event outside the top 10. I was excited to see how he would respond to McIlroy taking the No. 1 world ranking for him. McIlroy has done nothing but extend the lead.
Jim Furyk: Plenty of fairways and greens but an ice cold putter saw Furyk finish T23, his worst finish since T51 at Colonial. It breaks up a run of six tournaments of T15 or better. It happens.
Rickie Fowler: Like Furyk, he didn’t fire on Sunday either and finished T23, his best finish ever at TPC Boston. This broke a streak of six straight events where he finished T13 or better and he was T9 or better in the last five. #hothothot
Henrik Stenson: His Monday 65 guaranteed that he’ll be eligible next week at Cherry Hills. The defending champ moved up 24 spots on the final day to finish T26 and No. 55 on the FEC list. Gamers, his only round of the week that was in the 60s was his final one and this was on a track where he tied the tournament record last year.
Jason Day: T7, see above.
Hunter Mahan: After putting his first three rounds par or WORSE, Mahan rebounded with 68 on Monday but finished 64th. He led the field in GIR for three weeks in a row before T54 this week. He was 64th in strokes gained total for the week so his putter didn’t help matters either.
Patrick Reed: He was my OAD. He was three shots out of the lead going into round three. He shot 82. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I must be in the top five of OAD players in the world…
Bill Haas: T9, see above.
Jordan Spieth: Beginning the day in T11 this was an excellent chance for the young’un’ to jump back into the top 10, especially after he racked up a 62 on Monday last year. Opening with double on Monday squashed any ideas of that happening. His second one on No. 13 removed all doubt. He was T70 in GIR. Barf. He backed up his T22 at Barclays with T29 this week. His last top 10 was five events ago at the JDC. #slump
Jimmy Walker: T9, see above.
Ryan Moore: His all-or-nothing-ness at TPC Boston continues to mystify. He followed T10, T10 with 75th last year. This year, he didn’t break par and finished 73rd. Barf times two. Moore now finds himself on the outside looking in as he dropped from No. 26 to No. 34.
Charl Schwartzel: I put him in the preview, he tanks. I leave him out, he’s awesome. He bucked all his TPC Boston trends as he started out slow and closed with two rounds under par. Usually it’s the other way around but T46 doesn’t interest anyone.
For the second time in two weeks an MDF was necessary as 80 players made the cut. This week and last are the first two times that’s ever happened. #weirdtimestwo
Here’s how the 10-most volatile did on the final weekend on the regular season:
No. 75 David Hearn: His final round 65, one of five on the day, didn’t offset his first three rounds that were in the 70s. He finished No. 74. Out.
No. 74 Jason Dufner: DNS with neck injury. Out
No. 73 Bo Van Pelt: He entered Sunday T40 and needed a “Hearn-ian” low one. His 72 sent him back to Tulsa to get ready for 2014-15. Out
No. 72 Morgan Hoffmann: Nothing spectacular or flashy but for the second week in a row Hoffmann survived the bubble. His T35 moved him to No. 68 on the list and this tournament wasn’t even played in his back yard. Impressive!
No. 71 Brandt Snedeker: He began the week one position on the wrong side. He didn’t break par in two rounds and MC. A disappointing season for him and gamers mercifully comes to an end.
No. 70 Scott Brown: Firing 75 and 77 in two of three rounds won’t keep anyone around on this track; MDF and out.
No. 69 KJ Choi: His final round 68 and T35 moved him safely into position at No. 65. Left it late!
No. 68 Jason Bohn: Birdie Bohn overcame an opening 74 to close 68-69-69 and finish T35. Safe.
No. 67 Shawn Stefani: After opening with 69 there was No Doubt that he would make the weekend but he followed that with 74-71-73 to crash out. Don’t speak.
No. 66 Henrik Stenson: See above.
No. 65 Scott Langley: No rounds in the 60s = no flight to Denver. Out.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I post my weekly preview column, Range Rover for the TOUR stop and Playing the Tips. Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the BMW Championship plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.