KAPALUA, Hawaii (Reuters) - Chris Kirk ended a roller-coaster week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in record-equalling style, profiting from a new putting grip as he fired a sizzling 11-under-par 62 in Monday’s final round.
Dead-last overnight in the elite winners-only field of 33, Kirk rocketed up the leaderboard with a barrage of birdies on the hilly Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort to post a 13-under total of 279.
The 29-year-old, a three-times winner on the PGA Tour, employed a ‘claw’ grip on his putter as he picked up four shots before the turn, then covered the back nine in a scintillating seven-under 30 to match the tournament course record.
“I haven’t got to practise a whole lot but something kind of clicked for me on the back nine,” Kirk, who booked his place in the elite field by winning the Deutsche Bank Championship in September, told reporters.
“I hit a lot of wedges close, and I drove it way better today. I drove it right where I was looking all day, which was nice.”
South Korean K.J. Choi was the first player to shoot a 62 at the Kapalua event, doing so in the third round in 2003. Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell then followed suit in the final round in 2011.
Kirk, who opened with a 68 at Kapalua before plummeting down the leaderboard with a 76 and 73, introduced the claw putting grip for the first time during Sunday’s third round.
With a claw grip, the bottom hand comes off the putter grip and rests gently against the shaft.
“It’s something that I’ve been practicing with for probably six months, and I hadn’t put it in play yet until yesterday,” said the American, who raced around the Plantation Course in under three hours as he did not have a playing partner.
”I putted really well last year ... but there were some times I didn’t feel like I was getting the ball started on line as well as I could. I generally am a very good putter out here because I have good speed and I read the greens really well.
“So if I can find a way to consistently start the ball on line a little bit better, I should be able to have more days like today.”
Editing by Frank Pingue