The Loop

William McGirt's unlikely rise continues with a shot to win first major

July 31, 2016

Getty Images

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Before this year, William McGirt had played in just one major, the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah. So how to explain a season in which he has a half-dozen top 10s, including a win at Memorial, and is just four strokes off the lead with one round to go in the PGA Championship?

“Hours and hours working on it,” he said following a third-round 66 Sunday morning at Baltusrol. “Tons of little drills, whether it was sitting at home at night or in a hotel room. A lot of work with the putter.”

To that point, McGirt leads the field this week in strokes gained/putting and has just one bogey in his last 42 holes.

That work also began in earnest a little more than a year ago at Muirfield Village. That’s when McGirt -- a 37-year-old (former) journeyman who had stints on a half-dozen mini tours before eventually finding his way to the big stage -- first started working with his coach John Tillery.

He tweaked his set up, added distance off the tee and tightened up his ball-striking.

When McGirt was at the Memorial this year, he took a picture of the driving range on Tuesday of that week and sent it to Tillery with the message, “It all started here.” Five days later, he was sitting next to Jack Nicklaus with the trophy perched between them.

Win or lose this week, McGirt has already checked off his goal of simply making the cut in a major. Now he has his eyes on making the Ryder Cup team.

He hasn’t heard from U.S. captain Davis Love III, or anyone else, other than the PGA of America, which sent a letter to players near the top 10 in the standings about uniform fittings earlier this week. McGirt is 19th.

Said McGirt, “Hopefully I can do something that’ll make them consider me.”