FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – Fairmont native William McGirt flirted Monday for the third time with winning his first PGA Tour event.
A birdie putt on the final hole at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi turned away from the cup at the last second and stopped on the lip. That would have gotten him into a playoff with winner Peter Malnati. McGirt had to settle for his third runner-up finish as he starts his sixth season on the tour.
"That putt looked good from my viewpoint," McGirt told the Golf Channel in a post-round interview. "It looked like it was going to creep over the front right edge. It just kind of ran out of steam and fell off the hole instead of falling in for me."
McGirt had to play 27 holes Monday in the rain-delayed event. He shot two 66s in the middle two rounds and a 68 in the final round to finish 17-under par to tie with veteran David Toms for second. McGirt's other two runner-up finishes were in the Canadian Open in 2012 and '13.
McGirt, 36, revealed in the television interview that he learned a lesson from Tiger Woods in 2012 about keeping an eye on the leaderboard when you are in contention. McGirt was talking to Woods' caddie, Joe Lacava, on the putting green at the PGA Championship in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, just a month after the runner-up finish in Canada.
"I told Joe I never looked at a leaderboard on the back nine that day," McGirt said. "It was my only regret.
"Tiger was hitting putts and he looked straight up and said, 'What?' He walks over and we're basically nose to nose and he goes, 'OK, spill the beans.' I told him it was my first time in that situation on tour and I didn't want to screw it up looking at leaderboards.
"We had a nice little conversation and he goes, 'You're an idiot.' I said, 'I know, thanks.' I took that and kind of learned from it. The few times I've been in that position since then, I've stared the leaderboard down. I want to know what I have to do."
McGirt had the lead Monday on the back nine until he bogeyed the 16th hole to fall into a tie with Malnati. When Malnati, playing behind McGirt, birdied the 15th hole, he took the lead for good.
"I was pretty calm all day and thinking pretty clearly," McGirt said. "I made a lot of good golf swings and felt like I hit a lot of good putts. That one on 18 was one of my best and it somehow missed."
The fact McGirt could concentrate on his game so much was impressive because he had a lot on his mind. He and his wife Sarah are expecting their second child Friday, delivered by C-section, where they live in Boiling Springs, South Carolina. They have a son who is nearly 3 years old.
"We're very excited about that," he said. "I can't wait to get home to see them and welcome a new one."
McGirt doesn't plan to play any more tournaments this year and will return to the tour in January. But he is off to a good start in the 2015-16 season. After three events, he is 10th in the FedExCup standings with nearly $600,000. He is sixth in scoring average at 69.2 and ranked 120th in the world.
He shot his career low of 62 in the final round at Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago.
The recent good play has impressed McGirt's father, Curtis, who watched Monday's final round from his home in Fairmont. William changed coaches in June, hiring John Tillery.
"That takes real guts to make changes in your game in the middle of the season when you're competing against the best players in the world," Curtis said. "The change is not so much in his swing but the way he sets up to the golf ball. When you've played a certain way for 25 to 30 years and then change it, that is hard. But I think he's definitely on the right track."
William is still is looking for that elusive first win after playing in 150 tour events.
"You're never going to win one if you never put yourself into position," McGirt said. "Every time I get there, I feel more and more comfortable. One of these days, the door is going to open."
This article was written by Eddie Southards from The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.