The trend continued Thursday in the opening round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
The Acworth native and former Etowah High School standout shot 75 on an up-and-down day to leave him seven shots behind leader Bill Haas.
It also left Kirk with the knowledge that he will need to play better today to have a chance to make the cut in his Masters debut. The top 40 players and anyone within 10 shots of the lead after today’s round will survive to play the weekend.
“I played some decent golf most of the day,” said Kirk, who will begin his round with Bernhard Langer and Francesco Molinari at 9:24 a.m. today. “But I was definitely frustrated with my score.”
European natives Langer (72) and Molinari (71), both experienced at playing Augusta, fared better that their playing partner from the Peach State.
After getting up and down for par from 20 yards short of the green on No. 10, Kirk’s first trip through Amen Corner likely will be one he wants to quickly forget. After a bad drive on the par-4 11th cost him a bogey, his tee shot on the par-3 12th failed to get across Rae’s Creek.
“The wind is really tricky there,” he said. “I felt (it in my face) when I went to pull my club. When I was getting ready to hit, it felt like there was no wind at all. It was just one of those times where I might have gotten confused, I guess, and didn’t make my best swing there. And, as soon as I hit, the wind was back, and it ended up coming up short.”
The ensuing double bogey dropped Kirk to 3-over par, but he fought back with wedge shots at the par-5 13th and 15th, putting the ball inside 3 feet for birdies.
“I feel like my game is in good shape,” he said. “I’ve been a little frustrated the last few months. My swing feels really good, and my putting stroke feels pretty good, but I just haven’t been able to put together a whole lot of complete rounds, and I definitely haven’t put together four rounds.
“I had moments (Thursday) where I hit the ball great. I hit a few really great iron shots and made some really nice putts, and then I have moments where I hit it horrible.”
Kirk proved that on the closing holes. From the middle of the fairway on 17, Kirk hit his second shot through the green and couldn’t get up and down for par.
After another perfect drive to the middle of the 18th fairway, Kirk had what may have been the worst shot sequence of the day. It summed up his last few months, but he had no explanation as for why it happened.
“I had a pretty easy shot with a 6-iron and hit a horrible shot into the bunker — a very mediocre bunker shot from an easy position and not a very good putt,” he said. “I have little runs like that where all the hard work that I’m doing to fight back and make some birdies I just throw away on — I don’t want to say careless shots, because I am definitely working hard out there, but bad shots when I shouldn’t be hitting bad shots for sure.”
Kirk got off to a decent start, birdieing the par-5 second hole to go 1-under, and he stayed that way until the ninth hole, when a three-putt from inside of 10 feet dropped him back to even-par.