Kirk Beats Cole With Birdie on First Playoff Hole to Win 51st Honda Classic

Chris Kirk finally earned his first PGA Tour victory in eight years, though he needed an extra hole to get it.

The 37-year-old Kirk hit a brilliant approach shot from 107 yards to within one foot for a tap-in birdie on the first playoff hole to turn back rookie Eric Cole of Palm Springs and win the 51st Honda Classic on the Champion Course at PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

“I just can’t wrap by head around it yet,” said Kirk, who earned his fifth PGA Tour victory and first since the 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. “My life is so different than it was four years ago because of my sobriety, and I’m so thankful for my family and for all those who helped me through those difficult times.

“Obviously, I was very nervous today because I had not won in so long, but I was able to calm down and hit the shots I needed to stay up there and eventually win. Obviously, the birdie putt that I made on No. 16 was huge, and even though I made a mistake on No. 18 in regulation, I was able to make a bogey to get away with it in the long run.

“I had such a good number on that last shot in the playoff and hit it just perfectly. It’s just amazing and I feel so good right now.”

Kirk, who led by two strokes entering the final round, made three birdies on the front nine and sank a 19-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole before hitting his approach shot into the water on the last hole for that bogey to close out a one-under-par 69 and force the playoff at 14-under 266.

On the playoff hole, the par-5 18th, Kirk hit his drive behind a tree and had to lay up, setting up his amazing approach shot that set up the birdie, while Cole, seeking his first PGA Tour victory, saw his 12-foot birdie putt to prolong the playoff lip out of the hole.

Cole, the son of former professional golfers Bobby Cole of South Africa and Laura Baugh, rattled off three straight birdies through the fifth hole, where he sank a curling 70-foot putt, and added two more on the back nine in a 67.  

“I’m obviously disappointed now because I had a chance to get my first PGA Tour win,” said Cole, who has won 54 times on the Minor League Golf Tour. “I didn’t really have my best stuff today, but I was still able to put together a good round and even had the lead for a while before losing in the end.

“Of course, I was nervous going for that first win, but it was exciting to be in the moment out there with a chance to win, but I just didn’t get it done. It’s hard right now, but I will get over it and overall it was such a great experience that I feel like I’ll be back and be able to win out here.”

Tyler Duncan made four of his five birdies on the front nine en route to a 66 and was two shots back in solo third, followed by Monday qualifier Ryan Gerard, who hit a brilliant approach shot from 233 yards to within a foot for an eagle at No. 2 on his way to a 67 that put him four down in fourth.

Defending champion Sepp Straka of Austria made three birdies down the stretch for a 67 and was five back in a tie for fifth with 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry of Ireland, Ben Taylor of England and Ben Martin, who all finished at 70, and Justin Suh of San Jose and USC, who salvaged a 71 with a birdie on the 17th hole.

Two-time major champion Zach Johnson tied for 12th following a 67 with a birdie on the last hole, while 2020 Honda Classic champion Sungjae Im of South Korea shot a second straight 70 to tie for 42nd, and Padraig Harrington of Ireland, a three-time major winner who won this event in 2005 and 2015, closed with a 72 to tie for 60th.

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