Chris Kirk Defeats Rookie In Playoff To Win Honda Classic

The American beat rookie Eric Cole after the opening playoff hole for his first PGA Tour title since 2015

Chris Kirk is congratulated by his caddie after winning the 2023 Honda Classic
Chris Kirk won the 2023 Honda Classic after beating Eric Cole in a playoff
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Chris Kirk edged out rookie Eric Cole in a back-and-forth day at PGA National to claim the Honda Classic title.

After beginning the final round two shots ahead of Cole, Kirk got off to the perfect start with a birdie on the first. His joy was tempered soon after, though. After finding the trees with his tee shot on the second he eventually settled for bogey as Cole moved within one of the lead courtesy of his two pars to begin the day.

The two then birdied the third, but significantly, it was the first of a trio in succession for Cole, which included an incredible 70-foot putt on the fifth, to join Kirk at the top of the leaderboard. 

After the next hole, Kirk had the lead to himself again following Cole’s first bogey of the day, and things got even better for Kirk when he birdied the eighth as his rival could only make par. 

He wasn’t able to feel comfortable for long. On the 11th, a 13-foot putt moved Cole to within one, and he found himself in front after the 13th, when another assured putt gave him a birdie as Kirk faltered with his second bogey after finding the rough with his tee shot.

There was another twist two holes later, as Cole could only manage a bogey after needing two shots to get out of the bunker. With the lead now tied once again, Kirk nudged back ahead on the 16th after draining his 18-foot putt. 

However, just when it looked as though he would close out the win, disaster struck for Kirk when his approach found the water on the 18th. He could only manage a bogey while a par was enough for Cole to force a playoff.

Playing the par 5 18th again, Kirk found the rough from his tee shot, while Cole reached the fairway. However, Kirk’s second shot was good, leaving him 108 yards from the hole. 

It wasn't so encouraging for Cole, who found the bunker at the back of the green. A delighful approach left Kirk just 16in from the hole, and he wasn’t going to miss from there, meaning that Cole, after finding the green with his third shot, needed a birdie from 10 feet. It lipped out, leaving Kirk to claim his first title since the 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

Afterwards, a relieved Kirk said: "I just fought really, really hard today. I didn't play my absolute best, but I never gave up. I heard Paul Azinger say, I watched a highlight of me yesterday, and he said I looked like an emotionless robot, and I loved that. I absolutely loved it. I said today, I'm going to be an emotionless robot and I'm going to go stick to my guns and play aggressive and try to do the best I can."

The win gave Kirk prize money of $1.512m while it wasn't a bad four days' work for Cole either, who claimed $915,600.

Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.