Don’t sleep on McGirt in Scottsdale

By: By Rodd Baxley - Sports editor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — William McGirt knows better than to bet against the New England Patriots ahead of their matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Super Bowl LII.

“You can’t bet against (Patriots quarterback Tom) Brady and (Patriots head coach Bill) Belichick — arguably the greatest QB and coach of all time,” the Fairmont native told The Robesonian.

But like the Eagles, McGirt knows a little bit about playing the underdog role as he continues his eighth season on the PGA Tour.

With a trio of top-25 finishes to his credit this season, including a pair of top 10s, McGirt enters the week as one of writer Rob Bolton’s sleepers picks ahead of Thursday’s start to the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

McGirt, who is coming off a tie for 65th at the Sony Open in Hawaii, has had plenty of success at TPC Scottsdale.

Since debuting in the event in 2011, he’s perfect in six starts with an average finish of 25th. His scoring average in those 24 rounds is a smooth 68.96.

His hot start to the 2017-18 season has him sitting at fifth on the Tour in scoring average. He’s also eighth in scrambling, 16th in hitting greens in regulation and is tied for 31st in total driving.

Despite the early success, McGirt said his game still is “processing” as he continues to work through some differences from last season.

“I’m starting to get more comfortable with some of the changes,” he said. “I still need to tighten up a few things and get a little more confident on the greens but it’s still early in the season.”

McGirt had his share of highlights last season in Scottsdale, giving the rowdy crowd something to cheer about with a pair of birdie putts from a different area code en route to his second straight tie for 24th in the event.

Known as the loudest hole in golf, the par-3 16th at TPC Scottsdale is surrounded by enclosed grandstands that seat 20,000 people, many of whom are college students from nearby Arizona State University.

In the second round of last season’s tourney, McGirt rolled in a 41-foot birdie putt on the course’s signature hole. He trumped himself in the final round with an 80-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fourth hole.

“I’m looking forward to the week,” he said.

McGirt will again put his game to the test in the event dubbed as “The Greatest Show on Grass” on Thursday and Friday with Bryson DeChambeau and Sangmoon Bae. The trio will tee off at 10:14 a.m. Eastern time Thursday from the 10th hole.

Fairmont native has history of success in Arizona

By Rodd Baxley

Sports editor

Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.

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Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.