Golf

Terrific shot keeps McGirt’s hopes alive

At his Spartanburg-area home, William McGirt experienced what he called “one of those weeks.” Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

On the golf course was different. He hit one of those shots that golfers dream about — holing a 169-yard 7-iron for eagle on the 17th hole in the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday — to secure a spot in this week’s BMW, the third of four tournaments in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs.

The shot not only assured another lucrative paycheck, but also increased his options for the 2016-17 season.

“A huge bonus,” said McGirt, a North Carolina native who settled in Boiling Springs with wife Sarah after graduating from Wofford. “By making the top 70 (in FedEx points), I get into Colonial and the Memorial (both invitationals).”

This comes thanks to a shot he didn’t see.

At even par for the day in the 17th fairway, the wind making every shot an adventure and out of the projected top 70 in Monday’s final round, he struck his 7-iron toward a green shrouded in shadows. He knew he hit a good one, but he lost flight of the shot and didn’t see the ball hit the green and roll toward the hole.

“I started walking,” he said. “I looked and saw a few people with their arms up, then everybody had their arms up and were screaming.”

The eagle gave him a final 69 and moved him to 12th in the tournament and 68th in the standings.

McGirt has a flair for the dramatic. In his rooke year in 2011, he was the last player in — No. 125 — the FedEx playoffs. He finished his round in the final regular-season tournament, the Wyndham, then drained the battery on his cell phone checking the projections — not only for the playoffs, but also for his future. The top 125 secure cards for the following year.

A week later in the hurricane-shortened Barclays, he climbed close to the next magic number (No. 100) needed to advance to the playoff’s second tournament. With scoreboards removed because of the weather, he didn’t know where he stood late in the round.

“Sarah was walking with Padraig Harrington’s wife and Carolyn told her, ‘He needs to know,’” McGirt said. “Sarah said she didn’t want to break my concentration, but she finally flashed ‘101’ to me. I hit a shot to five feet and made the putt (and advanced to the second tournament.)”

A multi-sport star in high school, he chose golf over baseball for college and his three collegiate tournament wins included the Southern Conference championship and the Augusta State event that featured nine current PGA Tour pros.

“But I didn’t feel I was ready to play professionally at that time (2001),” he said.

Two years later, after winning the North Carolina Amateur and playing well in the U.S. Amateur, he felt prepared for the pros. He tackled the mini-tours, made the PGA tour in 2011 and has been a steady performer in his five years in golf’s major leagues.

This year has been his most consistent. With no cut in the BMW, he will have played the weekend in 22 of his 29 starts.

“I’ve played well, but I haven’t finished well,” McGirt, 36, said. “It’s a crazy game. Do you want to play really well (with high finishes) for six or eight weeks or do you want to be consistent and finish 25-30 every week? Who knows?

“At the end of the year, the most important thing is to be in the top 125 and keep your job.”

McGirt did that — and more.

Chip shots

Catherine Shealy (Columbia) and Colleen Estes (Mt. Pleasant) earned berths in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship in qualifying at Columbia CC. The national tourney is set for Oct. 3-8 in Choudrant, La. . . . Eddie Hargett (Columbia) and Walter Todd (Laurens) joined forces to shoot 17-under-par 127 and captured the SCGA’s Senior Better Ball title at Santee Cooper CC. . . . Caleb Proveaux, a senior at Gilbert High, defends his title against a star-studded field at the CC of Spartanburg in the 21st annual Bobby Chapman Invitational next weekend.

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