Dave Reardon: Hungry golfers will take aim at elusive win

Jan. 15—They make up for what they lack in name recognition with hunger.

They make up for what they lack in name recognition with hunger.

The leader and three golfers tied for second headed into today's final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii have half as many PGA Tour victories as last year's winner, Hideki Matsuyama.

All four are from one player, Chris Kirk, who is by far the most well known of the leaders. Hayden Buckley, setting the pace at 15 under, and David Lipsky and Ben Taylor (tied with Kirk at 13 under ) are all still in search of their first Tour win.

In the case of Kirk, it's been a long wait for victory No. 5. When asked if knowing what it takes to seal the deal gives him an advantage today, he questioned the extent of his muscle memory.

"I don't know. Probably not, " he said. "If I had won three weeks ago maybe, but it's been a little while (since the 2015 Colonial ). I definitely know what it takes, but also know it's not easy to do.

"But I definitely like where I'm at. I like the way my golf game feels, " said Kirk, who has come close but never won at Waialae. "Obviously I am very comfortable and love this place, so I'm excited for the opportunity against these guys that haven't won. Most of them are probably 15 years younger than me."

Kirk, 37, is a regular on the Sony leaderboard, and he tied for second here in 2021.

In 2014, he led going into the final round. Despite a 4-under 66 in the final round, he did not win because Jimmy Walker turned in a 7-under 63.

"I think that for some reason I would say here and Colonial are two of my favorites courses on Tour and they're very similar golf courses. The fairways play well, firm and fast, " Kirk said. "Rough very tricky. Requires some pretty good short game shots around the greens if you miss greens. And not necessarily ones where you need to bomb it."

Taylor, 30, was most recently in contention at the Houston Open in November, where he finished third after following three rounds in the 60s with a 70 on the final 18.

"I'm no stranger to this position anymore, which is obviously a good thing. You know, slightly different weather. Houston was freezing. We were just trying to keep warm and play golf, " Taylor said. "So slightly different this week, but the position is still the same, right ? So it's obviously very exciting and this is what we've worked for. We've worked to put ourselves in these positions, and hopefully tomorrow we can go and have a solid last round like I did in Houston.

"I failed multiple times on Sundays. And it's all experience at the end of the day. ... So I certainly have that going for me in my back pocket. I'm excited to be in that position again tomorrow."

Lipsky, 34, has been consistent this week, shooting 65-66-66. His best result this season is T10 at Mayakoba in November.

"My game is in a good place, " he said. "I'm making enough birdies. We'll see what the weather is like tomorrow. I think it's going to be a touch windier, so scoring might be more difficult, but looking forward to the challenge."

Buckley, 26, was tied for third midway through the U.S. Open last year with back-to-back 68s, and finished tied for 14th. His three career top-10s since joining the Tour in 2022 include a T5 last October at the Zozo Championship.

"Seemed like a pretty slow round besides two eagles, but we did exactly what we were trying to do and got away with two shots, had two big eagles, " Buckley said. "Our game plan stays the same (going into today with a two-shot lead ). If we play well enough, that's great. If not, we just deal with it."

The other three haven't tasted victory yet, but likely agree with what Kirk said about being in the hunt at the end.

"You know, being right around the lead on Sunday is never an incredibly comfortable feeling, but something that I love, " he said. "That's kind of why we do this, to have a chance to win on Sunday."