PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — While many of the golfers competing in this week’s Players Championship practiced on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on Tuesday, William McGirt opted for a trip down memory lane in Ohio.
The Fairmont native returned to Muirfield Village, the site of his first PGA Tour title, on Tuesday morning for media day ahead of the Memorial Tournament in three weeks.
After firing an opening round 5-under 67 on Thursday to claim a share of the lead in golf’s “fifth major,” the 37-year-old put himself in position to add another championship memory this weekend.
“I went with the less-is-more attitude this week for here,” McGirt said after breaking 70 for only the second time in 13 rounds at the Pete Dye track.
“When (Memorial tournament director) Dan Sullivan called me about going to media day up there, he said, ‘I know it’s a big week, I know it’s The Players.’ I said, ‘Dan, I waited 38 years (to defend his first PGA Tour victory). I’m not missing, OK?’”
Being at Jack’s Place filled McGirt with confident thoughts. It was the place where he proved to himself that he belonged. It was the place where he got up-and-down from the bunker in a playoff en route to beating Jon Curran for that elusive title in his 165th career start.
Those memories were far better than the thought of practicing early this week at the Stadium Course, a place where he’s sandwiched a pair of ties for 43rd around two missed cuts.
“I’m not saying that anybody has been lucky. … but there’s a lot of luck involved around this place,” he said. “I’ve hit several out here, when you get over there, you feel that you have your right foot on your left shoulder, trying to hit it between your legs. It’s just one of those places that you’re just like, ‘Ok, whatever.’”
But McGirt started this week on the right foot, rolling in three birdies on the front nine before adding a pair of eagles on the back, including a 55-foot “windmill” putt for his longest putt of the season. His only bogeys of the day came on Nos. 10 and 18.
As he heads into the second round as the co-leader along with Canadian rookie Mackenzie Hughes, McGirt hopes to continue riding high in the confidence department.
“It’s amazing what a little bit of confidence will do,” he said. “The win last year was huge for my confidence, and then playing well at the PGA (Championship) last (August), kind of proved to myself that, hey, I can play golf at the major-championship level.
“A lot of it, too, is playing well at the right time. I’ve played well at other weeks of the year and nobody seems to notice, which is fine, but just playing well at the right time is what makes everybody notice.”
McGirt will tee off at 2:03 p.m. Friday.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.