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LA QUINTA, Calif. – Kevin Na won last week’s Sony Open, but it was Chris Kirk who was the sentimental champion.
Playing on a limited medical extension, Kirk needed to finish in the top 3 in his final start last week to secure his full PGA Tour status for this season. He birdied four of his last seven holes to tie for second place.
While Kirk admitted to feeling the pressure and having to deal with nerves that come with such a deadline, James Hahn, who is also playing this season on a medical exemption, has no such concerns.
Hahn has seven more starts to earn 20 FedExCup points to secure his full Tour card. Kirk needed 148 points in his final start. That distinction, Hahn explained, was probably helpful for Kirk.
“Chris Kirk was down whatever, 148 points, with one tournament left with one goal and one goal only, to win the golf tournament, otherwise you lose your card,” Hahn said. “He had to finish in a [two-way] tie for third place, but if you’re trying to tie for third you might as well try to win.”
It certainly helped that Hahn got off to a fast start on Day 1 at PGA West with a 4-under 68 that left him tied for 15th and four strokes off the lead. It also put him on pace to earn those 20 points (a 36th-place finish is worth 20 points).
“I understand what it will take to fulfill my medical status but that’s not what I’m here for,” Hahn said. “I don’t make any decisions on the golf course based on how many points I need to fulfill my medical status.”