HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — William McGirt knew an opportunity had just slipped from his grasp.
The Fairmont native finished in a tie for third at the RBC Heritage, his best finish on the PGA Tour this season, but as he stood in front of the scoring trailer behind the 18th green at Harbour Town on Sunday, McGirt was thinking about what could have been.
“I played really well this week. Tee to green I gave myself so many chances over the weekend, I just couldn’t get it to the hole,” said McGirt, who posted a 2-under 69 to finish at 11 under, two shots behind winner Wesley Bryan.
“Seemed like I left everything a turn or two short dead center. I hit enough good putts on the back nine (Sunday) to run away with this thing.”
McGirt tied for first with 75 percent of fairways hit and tied fifth at 72.2 percent of greens in regulation, but the putting surfaces plagued him throughout the final round.
He finished with three birdies, including a 5-footer on the par-4 16th to get back within two shots of the lead, but it were the birdie putts that came up just short that weighed on his mind after the round.
He had birdie putts flirt with hole, only to stop on the lip or burn the edge, on nine holes during the final round.
“I hit the shots to win the golf tournament, and really hit a bunch of good putts,” McGirt said. “I thought I made the putts on (Nos.) 10, 11, 13, 14, 15. … I just couldn’t quite get it to the hole.
“You know you’ve got a chance to win and give yourself the opportunity and just don’t get it done. … I kept hitting good shots, felt I was hitting good putts, and just couldn’t get it to go in. That’s golf.”
His one blip of the round — and only bad swing — came on the 12th tee, when he left his drive behind the trees to the right of the fairway with no option but to punch out. His par putt from the fringe rolled by the hole and he carded bogey.
Despite the frustrating finish, McGirt earned a payout of $338,000 and vaulted 30 spots to 44th in the FedEx Cup standings. He also jumped six spots to No. 44 in the world golf rankings, closing in on his career-high of 38th last year.
After his second top-10 finish in his last three starts, and the 20th of his career, McGirt is starting to gain momentum at the right time.
“I feel like everything is kind of progressing nicely,” he said. “Hopefully, the next couple of months will be as good as they were last year.”
After a two-week grind at Augusta National and Harbour Town, McGirt is taking this week off before returning to action at the Zurich Classic in Louisiana. In two weeks, McGirt will be back in North Carolina to play in Wilmington at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.