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Kirk’s comeback, Vu’s breakthrough, LIV’s season kickoff

Feb 27, 2023Mark SchlabachESPN Senior Writer CloseSenior college football writer Author of seven books on college football Graduate of the University of GeorgiaWith the Honda Classic sandwiched between four of the PGA Tour’s biggest events, it’s no wonder its leaderboard was lacking in star power this past weekend.Many of the tour’s most recognizable names played

Kirk’s comeback, Vu’s breakthrough, LIV’s season kickoff

Feb 27, 2023

  • Mark SchlabachESPN Senior Author


    • Senior school soccer author
    • Creator of seven books on school soccer
    • Graduate of the College of Georgia

With the Honda Traditional sandwiched between 4 of the PGA Tour’s greatest occasions, it is no marvel its leaderboard was missing in star energy this previous weekend.

Lots of the tour’s most recognizable names performed in back-to-back occasions on the WM Phoenix Open and the Genesis Invitational, they usually’ll do the identical on the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Gamers within the subsequent two weeks.

Even with out Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and different stars within the subject, the Honda Traditional supplied golf followers with some drama, as Chris Kirk defeated Eric Cole in a playoff to win for the primary time in practically eight years.

The LIV Golf League’s season opener in Mexico additionally had an unexpectedly nondescript leaderboard. Charles Howell III, who made some huge cash whereas not often profitable on the PGA Tour, ran away with a 4-shot victory to choose up his first LIV Golf victory. Peter Uihlein was second and Branden Grace was third.

Whereas reigning Open Championship winner Cameron Smith completed sixth, lots of LIV Golf’s greatest stars comparable to Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson all completed exterior the highest 25 within the 48-player subject.

The LPGA Tour was additionally again on the course this previous weekend, a month after its season opener, and Lilia Vu grew to become a first-time winner with a 1-stroke win on the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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Here is what else occurred in skilled golf this previous week:

What occurred on the PGA Tour

The Honda Traditional
Winner: Chris Kirk
How he gained: Holding a 1-stroke lead over PGA Tour rookie Eric Cole on the 72nd gap, Kirk practically blew it when his method shot bounced off a rock wall and into the water. Cole lastly confirmed some nerves when he blasted his chip shot previous the pin, resulting in a par. Kirk was in a position to get better for a bogey, forcing a playoff with each gamers tied at 14 below. After Kirk’s tee shot on the primary playoff gap bounced behind a tree, he punched out and practically holed out on his third shot. Cole hit his second shot right into a greenside bunker after which his 10-footer for birdie lipped out. Kirk tapped in for his first PGA Tour victory since profitable the 2015 Charles Schwab Problem.

What occurred on the LPGA Tour

Honda LPGA Thailand
Winner: Lilia Vu
How she gained: Trailing Thailand’s Natthakritta Vongtaveelap by 6 pictures getting into Sunday’s last spherical, Vu carded an 8-under 64 to complete at 22 below, 1 stroke higher than Vongtaveelap. After ending tied for third or higher in three begins final season, Vu claimed her first LPGA victory with a bogey-free spherical. Vu, a former UCLA star, had two birdies in her first three holes after which had 5 straight on holes 8-12. She took the lead with one other birdie on the par-4 fifteenth. Vu hit 11 of 14 fairways, 11 greens and wanted simply 21 putts.

“Right this moment I mainly simply blacked out and tried to birdie each single gap,” Vu mentioned. “If I did not, simply transfer on and check out once more. Obtained into the scoring tent and did not know what I shot.”

What occurred within the LIV Golf League

LIV Mayakoba
Winner: Charles Howell III
How he gained: Howell, who gained 3 times in 609 begins on the PGA Tour, picked up his first particular person victory in his sixth begin within the LIV Golf League on Sunday. Howell had seven birdies by means of the primary 10 holes whereas carding a bogey-free, 8-under 63 to complete 16 below and win by 4 strokes over Peter Uihlein. Howell, who gained greater than $42 million whereas enjoying on the PGA Tour, picked up one other $4 million for the person title. His Crushers GC squad, captained by Bryson DeChambeau, gained the staff competitors and can pocket one other $3 million. The Crushers, which additionally consists of Paul Casey and Anirban Lahiri, completed at 26 below, 9 pictures higher than defending staff champion 4Aces GC. Defending LIV particular person champion Dustin Johnson, the 4Aces captain, completed thirty seventh at 4 over.

Kirk’s comeback

It was lower than 4 years in the past, in Could 2019, that Kirk took an extended leave of absence from the PGA Tour to concentrate on his psychological well being. On the time, Kirk mentioned he had been coping with alcoholism, anxiousness and melancholy for fairly some time. He made the announcement the day earlier than his thirty fourth birthday.

The four-time PGA Tour winner did not return to competitors for greater than six months. Kirk mentioned he has been sober ever since.

“I owe every thing that I’ve in my whole life to my sobriety,” Kirk mentioned Sunday. “I would not be doing this for a dwelling anymore. I most likely would not have the household that I’ve at the moment anymore. I got here actually near shedding every thing that I cared about.

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“For that to have occurred and labored out for me, clearly there [were] some choices that I made, however principally the grace of God and a whole lot of different individuals that basically helped me alongside the way in which. However yeah, it is one thing that is continuously on my thoughts, so it is fairly simple for me to see that profitable the Honda Traditional is type of a bonus when actually each good factor I’ve in my life I owe to that.”

It was Kirk’s first victory in seven years, 9 months and two days. He made 179 begins between his final two wins. Kirk had been enjoying good golf this 12 months. He completed solo third on the Sony Open in Hawaii and tied for third on the American Categorical.

“I could not beat the man in school,” mentioned Brian Harman, one among Kirk’s teammates at Georgia. “He has had a very underrated profession on the tour. To return again from what he struggled with and to climb the ladder once more is an ideal illustration of his resiliency and grit.”

Along with his newest victory, Kirk moved to No. 32 within the Official World Golf Rating. He additionally earned an invite to the Masters in April.

“I am not going to deceive you,” Kirk mentioned. “I got here into this week at forty seventh within the World Golf Rating, and that is normally not one thing I care an entire lot about, however I’ve not performed the Masters since 2016, I believe, and rising up in Georgia, that type of means every thing to me. So, I have been watching that World Rating carefully, making an attempt to remain within the high 50.

“However to care for it this week, that is going to be one thing that is extremely particular. Final time I performed, my two older sons, Sawyer and Foster, have been perhaps 2, simply turned 2, and like 4 months previous. Now to have the ability to return, they’re going to be 11 and 9, after which Wilder, my third son, will likely be 5. That par-3 contest cannot come quickly sufficient. I am actually wanting ahead to that. The entire week, however simply to have the ability to make these reminiscences with my spouse and my youngsters will likely be superior.”

Vu’s breakthrough

Vu was one of the vital heralded gamers to ever come out of UCLA. She was a three-time All-American, Pac-12 Participant of the 12 months and gained eight instances in school, greater than some other participant at school historical past. However after turning professional in 2019, she made only one lower in 9 LPGA Tour begins and misplaced her card.

“I used to be in a extremely adverse mindset, even my rookie 12 months out right here,” Vu instructed reporters in Thailand on Sunday. “I did not really feel like I belonged. Felt like each shot was life or loss of life. I might take a look at the ball and arrange and would not know the place I used to be going to go as a result of I used to be so nervous.”

Vu performed on the Symetra Tour (now the Epson Tour) in 2021 and made 15 of 18 cuts. She had 10 top-10 finishes, together with three victories. She completed first in factors and was the tour’s participant of the 12 months. She credit her late grandfather for serving to her flip issues round.

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“I bear in mind we have been in Florida at one of many Florida Symetra occasions and we have been flying house,” Vu mentioned. “I visited my grandpa earlier than we even flew out and it appeared like he was doing very well. He was going to get launched from the hospital. It was just like the night time earlier than I left he instructed me in Vietnamese, ‘Go play nicely. Do your greatest.’”

Her grandfather handed away a short while later.

“It simply actually hit me that I used to be in a foul spot with my golf, and the very last thing he ever mentioned to me was, ‘Play nicely,’” Vu mentioned. “Like out of all of the issues, he is like struggling and he was considering of me. I believe that is what I take into consideration each day.”

Better of the week

Greatest drive

Johnny Vegas crushed it.

DFZ: Divot Free Zone 💪@JhonattanVegas completely crushed this drive 353 yards!

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 25, 2023

Greatest tee shot

It is gotta be Pat Perez‘s hair.

Pat Perez NEARLY spun it house for an ace 😮‍💨#LIVGolf @4acesgc_

— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) February 26, 2023

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Greatest method

Similar man. Similar shot. No windshield.


— Callaway Golf (@CallawayGolf) February 27, 2023

Greatest chip

“Dr. Chipinsky” delivering below strain.

“We gotta make this or we’re going house.”

Monday Qualifier Hint Crowe wanted to chip-in on his last gap to make the lower on the quantity @TheHondaClassic.

It is the primary lower Crowe has made on TOUR.

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 25, 2023

Greatest sand shot

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Tyler Duncan‘s birdie helped him end third, his first top-10 end on tour since profitable the 2019 RSM Traditional.

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 26, 2023

Greatest putt

Cole, a PGA Tour rookie, confirmed loads of composure enjoying within the last group for the primary time Sunday. He has good genes; he’s the son of former PGA Tour professional Bobby Cole and LPGA Rookie of the 12 months Laura Baugh.

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 26, 2023

Greatest celebration

At the very least it is solely water.

— LPGA (@LPGA) February 26, 2023

Greatest social media

No kidding.

Fairly the day for @AkshayBhatia_1 😆

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 25, 2023

That is some dedication.

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If at first you do not succeed …

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 25, 2023

Is that this NASCAR or golf? In some way, Bryson DeChambeau failed to say the Vary Goats.

Bryson is pumped for his @crushers_gc teammates 💪💪💪#LIVGolf @b_dechambeau

— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) February 26, 2023

“A varmint won’t ever stop — ever. They’re just like the Viet Cong — Varmint Cong. So you need to fall again on superior intelligence and superior firepower. And that is all she wrote.”

Divots do not simply come from golf golf equipment 😂#LIVGolf

— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) February 24, 2023

It is a boy! And a woman!

Teeing off the 2023 season in fashion 💨#LIVGolf

— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) February 24, 2023

Welcome to the jungle.

Cam actually went mountaineering to hit that shot 🧗🏻‍♂️😳#LIVGolf @rippergc_

— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) February 24, 2023

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