The Acworth native and former Etowah High School standout finished two shots shy from automatically earning an invitation back to the 2015 tournament, but he said he thinks the experience of playing at Augusta National will serve him well the rest of the season.
“I felt like I could have played so much better. That’s what makes me feel hopeful for the future for me and this tournament,” Kirk said. “I played some pretty solid golf. I hit some good shots and made a few putts here and there. I feel very optimistic of the future, because I feel like I can play so much better than I did this week.”
Much like the rest of the week, when he shot rounds of 75-72-71, Kirk’s round resembled a roller coaster. His four birdies Sunday were offset by a double bogey on the par-3 fourth, along with two other bogeys.
Even with that, Kirk was in position to finish in the top 10. He had birdie putts of 12 feet on the par-3 16th and par-4 17th holes coming in, but he couldn’t get either to drop. Then, needing a birdie on the final hole, he instead bogeyed it for the fourth straight day.
Kirk’s second shot on 18 came up a yard short and rolled back down the fairway, which robbed him of an opportunity to enjoy his final walk of the week.
“I was not very happy with my second shot, so I didn’t take the moment to let it sink in like I should have,” Kirk said. “To me, this is such a great tournament. It’s been a dream of mine to play it for most of my life, but when you get inside the ropes, you don’t have time to sit back and reflect. This is a dang hard golf course. It takes your utmost attention, and you have to go and grind it out out there.”
With his finish, Kirk remains sixth in the FedEx Cup race, and his earnings will be more than $2.1 million. Most importantly, Kirk’s solid play at Augusta should keep him in or near the top 10 of the Ryder Cup points list as he heads to Hilton Head Island, S.C., for this week’s RBC Heritage.
Kirk is also planning on playing the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., at the beginning of May, the Players Championship, Colonial and the Memorial leading into the U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
“Golfers have very short memories,” Kirk said. “My win and (second-place) I had seem like forever ago. I haven’t played the way I would have liked the last few months, and I hope this helps me get headed back in the right direction. Playing some good golf under these conditions is definitely going to give me some confidence going into next week.”