Fresh off his victory at the TPC Boston, Kirk arrived at Cherry Hills for the BMW Championship and saw a message from Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. The conversation didn’t last very long.
“He was pretty straight to the point,” Kirk, the former Etowah High school standout, said Wednesday. “He just said, ‘Congratulations on the great play, but we’re going to go in another direction.’ He kind of started to explain his reasoning, and I wasn’t rude at all or anything, but if you’re not one getting picked ... the reasoning doesn’t really matter a whole lot.”
Watson instead took former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson to fill out his 12-man American team that will try to win the cup back from Europe. Watson said he didn’t make his mind up until about 12 hours before the announcement, and he was swayed by a pair of 5-and-4 victories Simpson had with Bubba Watson at Medinah in 2012.
Kirk took it in stride. The 29-year-old from Georgia doesn’t show much outward emotion, even after winning big tournaments.
Plus, it wasn’t hard to find the positives. His win at the Deutsche Bank Championship moved him to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup, meaning he will have a clear shot at the $10 million prize and a five-year exemption.
“I just kind of told him, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,’” Kirk said. “I just won the biggest tournament of my career. It’s going to take a lot more than this to put me in a bad mood.”
What concerns him is the perception that he didn’t care.
Kirk said repeatedly over the weekend at the TPC Boston that he wasn’t as wrapped up in the picks as other players, such as Keegan Bradley. He said even if he were to win, he would not be entitled to a pick because he didn’t earn one of the nine automatic spots.
He watched a replay of his victory Tuesday and said the announcers mention that he didn’t want a Ryder Cup pick.
“They said that on the coverage, and that couldn’t have been further from the truth,” Kirk said. “I never said that. I would love to have been on the team, but I’m just really focused on what’s in front of me right now, and this playoff race here. And hopefully, I’ll be on a bunch of Ryder Cup teams to come.”
Watson heard the comments from Kirk and loved them.
“When I was watching the tournament, he made the comment, ‘I don’t expect to get on the team because I didn’t earn my way on the team,’” Watson said Tuesday night in New York. “I said, ‘Man, I like that attitude.’ It made it easier for me to tell him.”
Watson also took Bradley and Barclays winner Hunter Mahan, both of whom have Ryder Cup experience. The choice of Simpson over Kirk was the one that stood out because Kirk finished ahead of Simpson in the Ryder Cup standings and won against one of the strongest fields of the year at the Deutsche Bank Championship, paired with Rory McIlroy over the final two days.
“I felt like there was a very good chance that I would get a pick, but at the same time, I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t,” Kirk said. “I don’t know if my nonchalant attitude about the Ryder Cup had any effect on what Tom thinks. I certainly hope not. I hope that I haven’t sent the wrong message. I would love nothing more than to play in the Ryder Cup. Maybe I don’t live and die by it like some guys do. But it would be a huge honor.”