5 Things: Kirk leads McGladrey in back yard
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – It was windy Friday, and it’s crowded at the top after two days of the McGladrey Classic.
Winds blew steadily around 20 mph and gusted above 30 mph in the second round at Sea Island’s Seaside Course. Near the end of the day, St. Simons homeowner Chris Kirk birdied his 16th hole to break a five-way tie for first.
Kirk’s second straight 66 put him at 8-under-par 132 and one stroke ahead of 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Briny Baird, Kevin Chappell and John Sendon. Simpson, Baird and Chappell all reached 8 under but slipped back in the wind.
The second round was suspended because of darkness at 5:38 p.m., and 18 players did not complete the second round. Seventy-one players were at 1-over 141 or better when play stopped.
Here are 5 Things You Need to Know after Friday’s windy day on the coast:
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1. LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD: Chris Kirk, a member of Georgia’s 2005 NCAA championship team, moved to St. Simons Island in the summer of 2007. So he has played Seaside “hundreds of times” and is familiar with how it plays in all kinds of conditions – wind, calm, rain, you name it.
“At least there are no surprises,” said Kirk, winner of the 2011 Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi. “I’ve seen every wind direction.”
Local knowledge helped him climb to the top of the scoreboard. So did six birdies, including five during a seven-hole stretch in the worst of the wind. He opened with a bogey on No. 10, then made a 41-foot putt from the fringe at 11 and was off and running. He chipped in for birdie at 14 and two-putted from 11 feet for birdie at the par-5 15th after hitting a 35-yard hook around a tree into a left-right wind.
His round also was highlighted by a good bogey at the fourth, where he drove into a hazard left and got up and down from 35 yards over the green.
While some other players talked of a brutal wind, Kirk said, “Today wasn’t too bad.
Kirk is one of a dozen PGA Tour players with a home here. He still has a place on St. Simons but moved his primary residence to the Atlanta area about six weeks ago.
Asked if he felt burdened by ticket requests and demands on his time this week, Kirk said, “I’m probably the seventh or eighth best player on the island. So no.”
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2. ROUND OF THE DAY: Long-hitting Jason Kokrak had Friday’s best round with a 5-under-par 65.
He missed only three (of 14) fairways and three greens in regulation while making an eagle, three birdies and a three-putt bogey. The round elevated him to 6-under 134, two back in a tie for sixth.
His eagle came on a 97-foot putt from the back of the green on the par-5 15th hole. “Got lucky,” he said.
Some players, of course, don’t care for playing in wind. Kokrak apparently is not one of them.
“Hopefully it blows like this and I can put up two more good solid rounds like that,” he said. “My ball-striking is really pretty key right now. I think it’ll play into my favor (if it’s) windy.”
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3. THE BIG RECOVERY: Former Georgia golfer Brian Harman was 4 over par after the first five holes of his second round, thanks to a double bogey and a pair of bogeys. But he rallied with six birdies after that, including five on a front-nine 30. The surge left him two shots off the lead at 67-68—135.
Harman credited his caddie, John Davenport, with settling him down.
“It was coming off the rails pretty quick there for a little while,” the St. Simons Island resident said. “But I knew if I settled in, it was going to be really tough for everybody today. I can’t ever remember it blowing like this. By the same token, I don’t ever remember a day where it was as calm as yesterday.”
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4. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES: George McNeill shot an eight-birdie 62 in taking the sole first-round lead. In the windy second round, though, he ballooned to a 76 that included only one birdie against seven bogeys.
McNeill, 38, a two-time Tour winner, got on the dreaded Bogey Train and couldn’t get off for more than an hour. He made five consecutive bogeys on Nos. 10-14. He hit only eight greens in regulation after hitting 16 on opening day. Plus, he took four more putts Friday.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Matt Kuchar, at No. 8 in the world the highest ranked player in the field, shot a second consecutive 68. He called it a “great round of golf,” considering the wind. At 4-under 136, he stands four shots off the lead. ... Tough back nine for Georgia club pro Craig Stevens. He had a 48 that included consecutive snowmen – quadruple-bogey 8s – on Nos. 13-14 thanks to three penalty strokes. He shot 84. ... Sea Island residents Davis Love III, Harris English and Kuchar were paired together the first two rounds. Tournament host Love shot 75-74 and missed the cut. ... Teeing off No. 10, Chappell birdied the first two and eagled the 15th on a 24-foot putt that hung on the right edge before wind helped it fall. But he bogeyed No. 1 and double-bogeyed the third when his ball rode a wind gust to the left toward a hazard. “I really didn’t feel like I hit that bad of a shot,” Chappell said. ... Playing on a medical extension, Baird is making his 365th Tour start and leads active players with most starts without a victory. ... Zach Johnson leads the Tour with 16 consecutive rounds of par or better. ... The McGladrey field includes three players who competed in the HSBC Champions last week in Shanghai, and all of them made the cut here – Brian Gay, Boo Weekley and Scott Piercy.