Needing a par at the 9th hole at Muirfield Village to make the cut at the Memorial Tournament on Friday evening around 7:30 PM, Chris Kirk dug his 3-wood into the teeing area to build a little man-made tee out of the turf. I picked up his group (he was playing with the 36 hole co-leader, Kyle Stanley) after the rain delay, and could tell that he was searching a bit. He dead chunked a long iron on the par-3 4th, coming up well short of the green which lead to a bogey. It was not a shot that you typically see a professional, and it was enough to get me to fire off some texts about what I had seen.
He righted the ship and slid inside the cutline with a nice birdie at the 8th. But the 9th tee is where this story really begins.
I’ve seen a lot of professional golf. I’ve played a decent amount of golf with professionals over the last couple of years. I’ve never seen anything remotely in the realm of what I witnessed on this calm June evening in Dublin, Ohio. I’ve seen pros hit shanks, I’ve seen hooks, and I’ve seen slices off the planet. But without any shred of a doubt, this was the worst shot I’ve ever seen a professional hit. Kirk cold topped a ball so bad that I felt it. No joke, my heart starting racing. Things were moving very quickly for me, as a spectator. I can’t even begin to imagine what he felt in that moment.
The silence on the tee was deafening. Golf tournaments are littered with fans that have no clue how to conduct themselves from an etiquette standpoint, but somehow it was as if every fan that witnessed this knew they couldn’t even turn to the person next to them to acknowledge that this had just occurred. Kirk’s facial expression never changed. My jaw remained at my chest until well after Patrick Cantlay put his tee in the ground. Two more players still had to hit, and when Cantlay got it airborne, I was honestly impressed. I don’t know how you don’t think about what everyone is avoiding talking about as you line up to play your shot.
What happened next was even more unbelievable. Kirk got up to his ball in the rough 76 yards in front of where he played his previous stroke, and hacked one down the fairway, just missing into the light rough on the right. With the trees overhanging the ninth fairway on the right side, this was far from the ideal spot. Heroically, he stuffed one inside of ten feet, and made a downhill tickler for either the best or the worst par I’ve ever seen. If there’s not a plaque to where he played the topped ball from at this time next year, what are we even doing here?
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) June 2, 2018
Knowing he had likely just slid inside the cutline, it was finally safe to acknowledge what just happened. He and his caddie shared a laugh, as did the other caddies in the group. Three hours later, it’s still all I’m thinking about. How a guy can hit that shot, turn around and face the music, and get the par that he needed to make the weekend is blowing my mind. For the briefest of instances, fans could look upon that and say “hey, he looks like me!” But the fact that he still ended up making the cut makes me feel like it is now safe to talk about it.
Kirk even took to twitter to get in on the fun, so props to him for this one:
— Chris Kirk (@Chris_Kirk_) June 2, 2018