DUBLIN, Ohio -- Should William McGirt get his first career victory Sunday at the Memorial he can thank in part Tiger Woods.
Four years ago in Canada, McGirt was a shot off the lead going into the last day. It was the first time he’d been in contention, and he shot 69 to finish one back.
A month later, McGirt was on the practice green the Monday morning of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. He was telling Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava that his only regret was not looking at the leaderboard down the stretch at Hamilton Golf & Country Club.
McGirt’s logic: The experience was new to him and he didn’t want to screw up the opportunity by worrying about the other names on the leaderboard.
Woods, standing 40 feet away, stopped putting, perked up and shouted, “What?” in disbelief. He came over to McGirt and told him to spill the beans.
“You’re an idiot,” McGirt recalls Woods saying. “Do you think Kobe [Bryant] doesn’t look at the scoreboard with a minute to go in the game? I said, ‘Point taken.’”
It was the first time McGirt had ever spoken to Woods, other than a passing hello, and the two continued chatting with Woods giving McGirt advice about why it helps to look at the leaderboard on Sunday and how to handle being in contention.
Saturday at Muirfield Village, McGirt, who has 164 career starts and three runner-up finishes, made seven birdies and an eagle en route to a 64. It was his best score by four in a handful of appearances in the event and leaves him tied for the lead with one round to go.
Over the years McGirt, who got to the tour after stints on at least a half-dozen mini-tours, has learned other lessons -- like trying to slow himself down, for example. But four years later he hasn’t forgotten about that experience in Canada. He’ll be watching the leader board on Sunday.
“I feel like I've put myself in position a few times, and it's one of those things where you kind of have to screw it up a couple of times before you learn,” McGirt said. “I feel like every time I've been in this position I've learned something. So hopefully, [Sunday], if I can make it work out, it would be good.”