A professional golfer for 12 years, William McGirt said he’d learned plenty and “gotten my nose bloodied a few times.” But in the 41st edition of Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, McGirt got his nose out front and kept it there.
And in the process he became the third straight playoff winner and the third straight first-time winner at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Playing in his 165th PGA TOUR event, McGirt shot a final-round 1-under 71 and then made par on the second hole of a sudden death playoff to beat Jon Curran for his first career title worth $1.53 million and a three-year PGA TOUR exemption. He also earned his first Masters invitation and qualified for the U.S. Open and PGA Championship after appearing in just one major previously.
McGirt, 35, of Boiling Springs, S.C., played 20 holes on Sunday without a bogey, including clutch par saves on both playoff holes, each played on the par-4 18th, but his last was the most important. After missing the green long and left at 18, McGirt chipped to 6 feet. Curran also airmailed the green, but he couldn’t save par from 65 feet. McGirt then calmly sank the winning putt.
“It’s a pretty darn cool feeling right now to get win No. 1, and for it to be here at the Memorial in front of Mr. Nicklaus,” said McGirt, who moved from 102nd in the world to 43rd after improving on his three career runner-up finishes.
Curran shot a final-round 70 and also was seeking his first career win.
The two completed 72 holes at 15-under 273. Dustin Johnson, the first-round leader, had a 71 and finished one stroke back. Rory McIlroy, No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, tied for fourth with 2013 Memorial winner Matt Kuchar, Gary Woodland and J.B. Holmes at 13-under 275. Kuchar and Woodland shared the 54-hole lead with McGirt.
Twenty players were separated by four shots going into the final round, and not much changed throughout the day as several players got to the top of the board only to fall back again.
Nicklaus, who won the Memorial twice among his 73 PGA TOUR titles, noted that the play of McGirt and Curran was exemplary down the stretch as the winds picked up and made Muirfield Village much tougher than it had played the first three days when conditions were soft and the winds calm.
“A lot of guys had an opportunity to win this golf tournament today,” he said, adding, “The guys kept self-destructing. And the only two guys who didn’t self-destruct were Will and Jon. They both came right down the stretch, both playing well, and that’s what we ended up with.”
World No. 1 Jason Day, a Muirfield Village member who had never cracked the top 25, kept that streak going even though he started Sunday in contention. Struggling with his driver, Day closed with a 74 finished in a tie for 27th—along with 2015 Memorial winner David Lingmerth—matching his best finish. World No. 2 Jordan Spieth ended up in a tie for 57th.