McGirt hopes first win at Memorial becomes his breakthrough

American William McGirt won in a play-off to claim his first career victory at Muirfield on Sunday.
American William McGirt won in a play-off to claim his first career victory at Muirfield on Sunday.

WASHINGTON • The top three players in the world went into the Memorial Tournament fresh off victories. A lot of good that did them.

Rory McIlroy, the world's No. 2 golfer, backed into a tie for fourth on 13-under 275 after a 68. Top-ranked Jason Day (74) finished tied for 27th on 279, and Jordan Spieth (73) was tied for 57th on 285.

The top three, who had combined for 15 top-10 finishes in 32 starts this season, were no match for American journeymen William McGirt and Jon Curran, who came into the week with a combined six top-10 showings in a combined 38 starts.

McGirt closed with a one-under 71, and Curran a 70, to finish regulation tied for the lead at 15-under 273. In the play-off, only one outcome was certain: a first-time PGA Tour winner would be crowned.

With a par on the second extra hole, McGirt notched his maiden win in his 165th tour start while Curran extended his winless streak to 55 tour appearances.

McGirt's closing round consisted of one birdie, at No. 5, and 19 pars, including the play-off. But there was nothing routine about his last par, in which he chipped from thick rough over the green to seven feet and made the uphill putt while the tournament host, Jack Nicklaus, looked on.

"It was an unbelievable struggle all day," he said. "My putter saved me this week. I fought my golf swing but just tried to hold on to it."

It was his first victory since turning pro 12 years ago. He booked a spot in the US Open at Oakmont in two weeks, along with a three-year PGA Tour exemption.

He has appeared in just one Major previously in his career, missing the cut in the 2012 PGA Championship.

He hopes this is the breakthrough he was looking for to become a consistent contender on the Tour.

"I have been in this position before," he said. "I feel like I learnt something from it. In the past, my tendency was to get fast - my walking, my swing. I tried to slow down a bit today."

He became the sixth player to have his first career win come at the Memorial, including the last two - Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and Swede David Lingmerth.

It was the third straight year that the tournament hosted by Nicklaus went to extra holes.

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'McGirt hopes first win at Memorial becomes his breakthrough'. Print Edition | Subscribe