Rookie Kirk wins Viking Classic

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, Last Updated: 11:05 PM ET

MADISON, MS. - Chris Kirk posted a four-under 68 on Sunday to outduel Tom Pernice, Jr. and George McNeill for his first PGA Tour victory at the Viking Classic.

Kirk became the fifth rookie to win on tour this season, joining Jhonattan Vegas, Charl Schwartzel, Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley. It's his third win as a professional after winning twice on the Nationwide Tour in 2010.

"It's amazing," Kirk said. "It's something I've been working for for a long, long time, and to get it here was a little bit extra special. After (the tournament) being nice enough to give me a sponsor exemption for me to make my pro debut in 2007 a week after I turned professional, I haven't been back since then. So to be back here now and get my first win here in the same place where I had my pro debut is pretty cool."

Kirk finished 72 holes at 22-under 266 at Annandale Golf Club, which would have tied the tournament record for a par-72 course that Steve Lowery, Skip Kendall and Fred Funk all shared coming in; however, rainy conditions forced lift, clean and place rules. Kirk had six birdies and two bogeys on Sunday.

Pernice (67) and McNeill (68) were in it until the very end, but couldn't catch Kirk. Pernice had six birdies and a bogey in his search for his first PGA Tour win since 2001, while McNeill had four birdies and is winless since capturing the Frys.com Open in 2007.

"It's nice to stay in contention all week and to have a chance on the back nine," said Pernice, who plays primarily on the Champions Tour. "I had a chance on 18. The hardest part, I had a good wedge into that pin, and I had a pretty good putt to look at it. So it's disappointing not to capitalize and hit a good putt."

Bud Cauley (67), Hunter Haas (68) and Jim Renner (68) shared fourth at 20- under 268.

With all the groups going ahead of Kirk and the plethora of birdies, he didn't get back into it until his first birdie of the day at the fifth.

That gave him a share of the lead with Pernice, and Kirk birdied the next hole for his first outright lead of the afternoon.

The battle had just begun, however.

Kirk missed a three-foot par putt at the eighth hole, his first bogey since the second round. Pernice was able to make it a two-shot swing with an 11-foot birdie putt at the 10th, putting the Champions Tour regular atop the leaderboard.

McNeill and Kirk both birdied the 10th to create a three-way tie at 20-under with Pernice, but Pernice's five-foot birdie putt at the 13th put him ahead once again.

Kirk laid up at the par-five 11th and hit his third to within four feet. After making birdie, Pernice's lone bogey of the day -- a missed five-foot par putt at 14 -- created another two-shot swing and gave Kirk the lead.

Kirk, though, also bogeyed the 14th after his approach missed the green and his 12-foot par putt was off the mark. Pernice moved back ahead with a birdie at the 17th, while McNeill birdied the 16th to put the pair one shot ahead of Kirk for the lead.

Pernice was unable to make a seven-footer for birdie at the 18th, which proved costly in the end. McNeill, meanwhile, couldn't convert a 13-foot birdie chance at 17 and missed the green at 18 en route to a par.

"I had a perfect putt up the hill six or seven feet for birdie," Pernice recalled. "Just needed to make a good firm stroke, maybe just outside the right edge and all that good stuff. Looked like I pulled it."

Kirk, though, made a final push with two birdies in a three-hole stretch to move ahead for good.

Kirk's tee shot at the par-three 15th landed seven feet from the cup, and he drilled the clutch birdie chance for a share of the lead. After missing a 16- footer for birdie at 16, he went ahead for good thanks to an incredible approach within five feet at the 17th.

Kirk sank the four-foot putt to get to 22-under, good for a one shot lead heading into the last. Knowing he needed only a par at the par-five last, he laid up, then hit his third to eight feet.

Kirk's birdie chance didn't fall, but it left him a tap-in par for the title.

"I made a three-inch putt to win. That's not exactly an accomplishment," Kirk said. "All the other shots I hit were pretty good. I've always thought it was kind of silly, to be honest with you, when a guy taps in from three or four inches away and lets out a huge fist pump."

Sunghoon Kang, who was in the final group with Kirk, shot a two-under 70 to finish in a share of seventh with Tommy Gainey (68) at minus-19. Shane Bertsch (67), Blake Adams (69), Peter Lonard (71) and D.J. Trahan (71) all tied for ninth at 18-under 270.

NOTES: This is only the second year since 1970 where five or more rookies have won on tour, with the other coming in 2004...Kirk now has four top-10 finishes this season, most among rookies...Kirk is the seventh player to make this tournament his first win on tour...The PGA Tour moves to Canada next week for the Canadian Open. Carl Pettersson made the cut on the number last year, then closed with rounds of 60-67 to beat Dean Wilson by a single stroke.


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