By Sam McPherson
William McGirt won a playoff at The Memorial Tournament on Sunday to claim his first PGA Tour title, beating Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar down the stretch at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. With a par on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff against Jon Curran, McGirt won $1.53 million and gave his career a much-needed boost after 164 winless starts on Tour.
Despite shooting a 71 on Sunday, McGirt finished at 15-under par for the tournament, tied with Curran, who shot a 70 on Sunday to reach the playoff. Johnson ended a stroke back, alone in third, after shooting a 71 on Sunday that included a strategic cart-path play on the 10th hole. Johnson also blasted a 382-yard drive effort on the tournament’s 71st hole, the longest at this year’s Memorial.
Meanwhile, McIlroy’s closing 68, the third best score of the final round, wasn’t enough to catch the leaders down the stretch. The world’s No. 3-ranked golfer came in at 13-under, in a fourth-place tie with J.B. Holmes, Gary Woodland and Kuchar, who faded on Sunday with a 73.
McGirt won the tournament on the second playoff hole, but his sandy par on the first extra hole was his most clutch sequence of the day. This is Curran’s second PGA Tour playoff loss, as the 29-year-old continues to search for his first career win. He previously lost a five-way playoff at the 2015 Puerto Rico Open.
In other tournament news, Phil Mickelson finished in a tie for 20th at 10-under, despite leading the field in greens in regulation (79.2 percent) for the week. Lefty contended until an even-par 72 on Sunday dropped him in the standings. Defending champion David Lingmerth of Sweden ended one stroke behind Mickelson in a tie for 27th place. Surprisingly, the top-ranked Jason Day struggled to a 74 in his final round, dropping into that same 27th-place tie.
Jordan Spieth, coming off last week’s win at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, couldn’t get it going all week. He tied for 57th place after posting a 3-under score, which included a 74-73 weekend. McGirt’s win over a stacked field bodes well for the first-time victor on the Tour. Whether he can build upon the impressive feat this late in his career remains to be seen.
Next On The Tee: FedEx St. Jude Classic
The FedEx St. Jude Classic, the PGA Tour’s last stop before the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania on June 19-22, will be played on the TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee course this week. The tournament features a $6.2 million purse overall, with the winner set receive over $1.1 million. Argentinian golfer Fabián Gómez took home the title last year with a four-stroke win over England’s Greg Owen.
Gómez returns to defend his title against other former champions including Ben Crane (2014), Harris English (2013) and Dustin Johnson (2012). McGirt and Mickelson also will be in the field along with Curran and Colt “Big Gravy” Knost. Many of golf’s best, however, will skip the event to prepare for the U.S. Open. This presents a great opportunity for hungry players seeking that first Tour victory, as Gómez amd Harrison Frazar (2011) found out.
The course design was influenced by two-time major winners Hubert Green (1977 U.S. Open, 1985 PGA Championship) and Fuzzy Zoeller (1979 Masters, 1984 U.S. Open). There are 94 bunkers on the course and 10 water hazards, making negotiation of the course quite a challenge. The course record is a 61, achieved twice, and the tournament record is 26-under set by John Cook in 1996.
The TPC Southwind course plays 7,244 yards long and is a par 70.
Favorites: Harris English, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson
Players to Watch: Jon Curran, Fabián Gómez, William McGirt
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.