McGirt charges into contention

William McGirt chips to the Kapalua Plantation Course’s ninth green Saturday during a round of 7-under-par 66 that was tied for the day’s best. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAPALUA — It was a scorching Saturday in more ways than one for William McGirt.

The SBS Tournament of Champions newcomer  fired a 7-under-par 66 at the Kapalua Plantation Course, moving into a three-way tie for third place with 18 holes to go.

Playing on Maui for the first time, McGirt had no problem with the hot, humid and massive course, tying for the best round of the day. The 37-year-old from South Carolina was at 14-under 205, tied with Jimmy Walker and Ryan Moore and four shots behind the leader, Justin Thomas.

“I hate cold,” McGirt said. “I’m so used to seeing rain like we had last week because that’s all I’ve seen for the last month and a half at home.”

McGirt finished the second round tied for 11th. Seven birdies later, he’s in contention.

“I’ve hit it really well this week,” he said. “Finally made some putts today. I struggled sort of the first couple days with the grain in these greens. I think yesterday, I could have putted better blindfolded. It was ugly up until the very end.”

McGirt punched his ticket to Maui by winning a playoff against Jon Curran at the Memorial in June.

“We don’t have any past experiences to go on on this golf course,” McGirt said of himself and caddie Brandon Antus. “I’m like, ‘Hey, what do you think this putt does?’ He’s like, ‘I have no clue.’ “

McGirt has just two bogeys this week, tied for the second-fewest, and his 16 total birdies rank seventh.

“You’ve got to really keep the pace up on it,” he said of putting at Kapalua. “That’s not the way I like to putt. I like to dial putts in there, but you kind of have to change your approach this week and kind of bang them in.

“I hit it good and made some putts. That’s the recipe for playing well. You can’t try to scramble out here and luckily I’ve been hitting a bunch of greens.”

Another hill McGirt had to climb in his first trip to Kapalua was the 7,452-yard course itself.

“Hey, the good news is that everything else we walk this year is going to be easier,” he said.

* Chris Sugidono is at