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Published September 19, 2015
Chris Kirk figured the Ryder Cup was out of his hands when he failed to earn one of the nine automatic spots. He already has plans to be at the Tennessee-Georgia football game during the matches in Scotland. He doesn't see any need to call U.S. captain Tom Watson and lobby for a pick.
"It's not like there's anything that I can do to sway it one way or another," Kirk said Monday after his victory in the Deutsche Bank Championship. "I can't say, 'Hey, Tom, please pick me now.' I don't think that's going to change his mind a whole lot."
Kirk did far more with his actions than his words.
He played the final 36 holes with Rory McIlroy, the best golfer in the world. He went the last 37 holes without a bogey on the TPC Boston. Even without a birdie on any of the par 5s, Kirk closed with a 5-under 66 and made three clutch putts to win a FedEx Cup playoff event.
"The biggest win of my career," he said.
How big? That could depend on Tuesday when Watson announces his three captain's picks.
The last three weeks — particularly the opening two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs — effectively served as an audition for players who didn't make the team. Hunter Mahan won last week at The Barclays. He already has played on two Ryder Cup teams.
Kirk doesn't have Ryder Cup experience, though his season deserves closer inspection. He finished No. 14 in the standings. He won for the second time this season — only three other Americans (Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson) have multiple wins in the wraparound season.
The 29-year-old player from Georgia was more interested in the light blue trophy sitting on the table next to him.
"Winning the Deutsche Bank and going to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup, and $1.4 million, that's plenty for me for one day," he said with a smile.
It was hard work, as it usually is at this playoff event.
Kirk started the final round two shots behind Russell Henley and finally caught up with a birdie on the ninth hole. By then, the race was on. Billy Horschel, playing in the final group with Henley, never went away. Geoff Ogilvy was the mystery guest, making putts from everywhere.
Kirk took the outright lead for the first time with a 25-foot birdie putt. Equally important was the 15-foot putt he made to save par from a bunker on the 15th hole after a terrible wedge missed the green to the left. And then he made a birdie putt from just outside 12 feet on the par-3 16th for a two-shot lead.
The only weak stroke Kirk made with his putter was on the 18th green, an 8-foot birdie attempt that never had a chance.
And that gave a chance to Horschel, who stood in the 18th fairway with a 6-iron for his second shot. Having seen Kirk fail to make birdie, Horschel thought for a second that it was his tournament to win.
"When Chris missed his birdie, I thought I was going to hit it on the green. I thought I was going to make the putt and make the eagle and win it outright," Horschel said. "But it just wasn't my day, I guess, to hit that bad of a shot."
It was a clunker. Horschel missed it so badly that the ball barely reached the hazard. He wound up with a bogey for a 69, two shots behind, and shared second place with Henley (70) and Ogilvy (65).
Ogilvy was the most interesting of any player who didn't go home with a trophy.
Just eight days ago, he was home in Arizona and figured he was done playing for a month. Thanks to a peculiar chain of events — one player missing a par putt on the 18th at The Barclays, another player making a par some two hours later — Ogilvy was the last of 100 qualifiers to reach the second FedEx Cup playoff event.
Halfway through the third round, he was closer to the cut line than the lead. And then the former U.S. Open champion started pouring in putts, and everything changed. He played his final 27 holes in 12-under, was tied for the lead on the back nine and went 65-65 on the weekend.
That moved him from No. 100 to No. 24 in the FedEx Cup. Not only did he join the 70 players headed to Cherry Hills in Denver for the BMW Championship this week, Ogilvy stands a reasonable chance of staying in the top 30 and going to the Tour Championship.
Kirk will be there. He went up to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup, giving him a clear shot at the $10 million prize when he gets to East Lake. The only question as he left Massachusetts was whether there would be another event on his schedule, this one not paying a dime.
It was a nice problem to have.
"If I get picked, great," Kirk said. "If not, I'm happy with my win today."