All eyes were on Jordan Spieth this past weekend at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, as the Dallas native was looking for his first hometown win. But it was Chris Kirk who was slipping on the champion’s plaid jacket on Sunday night. Kirk entered the final round with no expectations of winning, especially with the way he was driving the ball all week. Not feeling very comfortable with the big stick, Kirk refrained from using it on the 72nd hole, instead pulling his tee shot and scrambling on 18. “I just didn’t think I was going to hit it anywhere on the planet, to be honest with you,” he said. Kirk’s previous PGA TOUR wins have come with tap-ins on the last hole, but Sunday was new territory for the Georgia alum. He needed a 7-foot par save to help him maintain his lead and hold on to win his fourth TOUR event. With his driving out of whack, he made up for it with his putting. Kirk lost 0.4 strokes to the field off the tee, but made huge strides with putting by gaining 1.9 strokes on the field in that category.
"“Felt like I was struggling with my swing a little bit earlier this week, still didn’t feel great with the driver down the stretch, but to be able to gut it out and make the putts when I needed to make them and get a win really feels sweet.”"
As for the main attraction Jordan Spieth, he came up short with in second place making that his third runner-up finish in all three tournaments played in Texas this season. “The second round set me back,” Spieth said, referring to the 73 he had on Friday. After opening the tournament with a lead-tying 64, Spieth’s second round started with an ugly front nine of four over, which included a triple bogey. He was able to put himself back in contention with a 3-under 67 on Saturday.
Spieth entered the final round 5 shots off leader Kevin Na, who sat at 11-under. The 21-year old gave himself a chance on Sunday, starting off with four birdies in the first six holes, but unfortunately hit a snag on the back nine. He missed several birdie opportunities that could have been the difference maker in the outcome, making only two birdies in his final 12 holes. Then came hole 16, where Spieth made the wrong club choice in a mistake that will haunt him for quite sometime. Playing 184 yards, he chose to go with his a 7-iron and sent one long to the back right of the green and 48 feet away from the hole. He would eventually three-putt the hole for bogey, ending his streak of 183 holes without a three-putt. Instead of blaming his putting, Spieth blamed his decision on the tee box for his shortcomings.
"I just took the wrong club,” Spieth said. “… You’ve got to hit 8-iron there below the hole. Tried to hit a 7 and kind of punch it in there, maybe get it a little too close to the hole. 99 percent of the time, I make the right decision and stay below the hole. We made the wrong decision today and it cost us.”"
He would, however, give himself a chance on the 18th when he drained a 27-foot birdie putt to send the Dallas crowd into a roar and enter the clubhouse with a share of the lead at the time at 11-under.
“It was nice to finish that one, given the disappointment of the back nine, I had so many looks and couldn’t quite get them to go, it was nice to have that one just to give myself an outside chance.”
Chris Kirk would spoil the fun with a big par save on 18 to take home the plaid jacket and edge out the hometown favorite by one stroke.
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Spieth will have himself another chance at the AT&T Byron Nelson this weekend, where he had his first taste of the event at the age of 16. Crowds will just as rowdy as they were at Colonial as fans flock to see the local favorite try grabbing his first Texas win. Both tournaments this weekend have reported a record number in ticket sales, much of which has to do with the arrival of the 2015 Masters Champion
"“Sales are already up 10-15 percent over last year,” said Byron Nelson tournament director Jon Drago. “All of our pro-ams are totally sold out and we only have a few luxury suites left. If sales continue on the pace they’re on, we have a chance for our largest crowd ever,”"
For Spieth, these hometown tournaments are some of the biggest events of the year for him. “I’m approaching these like a major,” Spieth said. “I’d like to try to make a statement there.” If he can avoid costly mistakes and capitalize on birdie opportunities, he can get that breakthrough Texas win in a big way. After all, everything’s bigger in Texas.