William McGirt captures first PGA Tour win in playoff at Memorial

William McGirt earned his first PGA Tour win on Sunday.

William McGirt captures first PGA Tour win in playoff at Memorial

PGA Tour

William McGirt captures first PGA Tour win in playoff at Memorial

DUBLIN, Ohio – The world of William McGirt changed dramatically on Sunday, as the journeyman won the Memorial Tournament, his first PGA Tour title, in a two-hole playoff over Jon Curran at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

For McGirt, 36, it’s hard to imagine what this maiden victory means. There’s the money, $1.53 million, the invitation to the Masters and PGA Championship, and, due to his move into the top 50 in the world rankings, a spot in the U.S. Open. Oh and the three-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

It took 163 events since getting his card at Q-School in 2010 for the mini-tour aficionado to win on the PGA Tour, but he had three runner-up finishes and 15 top-10s on his Tour resume prior to this week.

The most recent close call came earlier this season at the Sanderson Farms Championship in November when the former Wofford Terrier tied for second.

Showing the tenacity of a terrier, McGirt didn’t have anything close to his A-game Sunday at Muirfield Village, but did feel good over the putter and used his short game to keep him close early and on top late in a bogey-free 1-under 71.

“To be honest with you, I can’t remember much about today,” McGirt admitted. “It went by so fast. Scott Piercy told me in the locker room this morning, he says, ‘Hey, slow down. Just everything speeds up. You don’t want to get to 10 tee and look up and you’re 1 over and feel like you’ve played three holes and you’ve played nine.’ So I tried to consciously slow down my walk. I tried to slow everything down. I tried to slow the golf swing down, but that didn’t work too well.”

McGirt said he put both hands on the steering wheel and just kind of got it in from there.

McGirt won the 2003 North Carolina Amateur and Cardinal Amateur, but after he turned professional, he spent more of his professional career on mini-tours than the PGA Tour.

His last win on the mini-tour scene came in 2007 on the Tar Heel Tour. McGirt cashed a check for $16,000 that week. Needless to say, he was fighting for financial scraps in the early days compared to the PGA Tour riches.

There were times when McGirt would finish a mini-tour event on Saturday or Sunday and then drive all the way to a Monday qualifier. If he didn’t get in, which he never did, he was back in action right away.

“Sarah was with me,” McGirt said of his wife. “We went to Boston to try the Monday qualifier for the Deutsche Bank (Championship). We drove straight back, and I played a mini-tour event that week.”

None of those laboring weeks mattered on Sunday as McGirt let most of the contenders turn into pretenders. Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland all were close to or had the lead at one point in the final round but ultimately couldn’t hold up.

“The guys kept self-destructing,” host Jack Nicklaus said of the finish. “And the only two guys who didn’t self-destruct were Will and Jon. They both came right down the stretch, both playing well, and that’s what we ended up with.”

In the end it was McGirt that made a 7-footer for par to win on the second extra hole after Curran could not covert a 39-footer to secure a par of his own.

For McGirt, it was 20 bogey-free holes on Sunday. But once the final putt dropped, his life had changed.

“One thing I had always told myself, if I ever won a golf tournament, No. 1, don’t cry. And No. 2, don’t make a fool of yourself,” McGirt said. “So when I stood over the putt, I told myself, I said, this is what you’ve dreamed of doing your whole life. You have this opportunity. Hit the best putt you can and see what happens.”

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