William McGirt is off to the best start of his PGA Tour career as he continues his sixth full season.
Despite a lack of practice and time away from the course because of the arrival of a second child, the Fairmont native sits fourth in scoring average, posting an average round of 69.293 — one spot behind Jordan Spieth, the No. 1 ranked player in the world.
In four events this season, McGirt has already eclipsed his top-10 total from last season — a seventh-place finish at Sanderson — with back-to-back top 10s. He was a shot short from claiming a third consecutive top-10 finish this past weekend at the Sony Open, finishing in a tie for 13th.
Now, McGirt heads to the California looking for continued improvement at the CareerBuilder Challenge. He spent Monday and Tuesday working with his teacher, something he hasn’t been able to do in recent weeks.
“Hopefully we can get some things fine-tuned and be ready to rock and roll this week,” McGirt told The Robesonian.
With a No. 9 ranking in total strokes gained and an all-around ranking of seventh, McGirt looks primed to get even better — and he’ll need to be this week.
In five appearances at the La Quinta event, McGirt has cracked the top 30 once (tie for 30th in 2012) and has missed the cut twice, including last season.
PGA WEST’s TPC Stadium Course and Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course will join La Quinta Country Club for the 72-hole competition, which features a 54-hole cut. All three courses are par 72s, with the longest being the 7,159-yard Nicklaus Tournament Course.
Bill Haas is the defending champion of the event. The Wake Forest alum shot 22-under for the tournament to beat Charley Hoffman by one stroke. Haas has two victories and a runner-up finish in his career at PGA WEST.
McGirt tees off on No. 1 at 8:30 a.m. — 11:30 a.m. EST — and is grouped with Kyle Reifers, Clarke Rheney and Jeff Wise.
“I’ve never been a huge fan of birdie fests like the CareerBuilder is this coming week,” McGirt said. “My goal is going to be similar this week. Make the cut, figure out what needs work, and work on it in my off week following the CareerBuilder.”
Currently the 123rd ranked player in the world, McGirt is closing in the highest ranking of his career (118 in 2014 after The Barclays). He’s been remarkably consistent, sitting in a tie for 15th in average birdies per round and 18th in strokes gained from tee to green.
There have been six first-time winners this young season, more than halfway to the 11 that won last year. That bodes well for McGirt as he continues to strive toward notching his first Tour victory.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.