Chris Kirk considered walking away; now he's sober and once again winner
ST. Augustine, Fla. - Chris Kirk shouldn't be here.
A four-time PGA Tour winner with millions of dollars in the bank shouldn't mingle with those who still want to break through. The guy who was technically the first deputy at RBC Heritage this week usually parked on South Carolina beach and took the risk of cracking the field in Harbor Town or just spent an extra week at home.
But the reason why Kirk shouldn't hold the trophy at the King & Bear Classic's Korn Ferry Tour shortly after finishing his first professional win in more than five years has more to do with the dark path he took for a year has successfully completed before.
It takes strength to ask for help, and that's exactly what the 35-year-old did last May when he said goodbye to professional golf indefinitely to address alcohol abuse and depression issues. After reaching 16th place in the world, he felt his world turn both on and off the course and knew that he had to act.
Sober Chris Kirk considers what quarantine might have been
"I'm a very different person from two years ago," said Kirk. "When you are faced with a situation where you are completely out of control of your own life, something changes."
Kirk finally missed seven months of tournament competition and returned to Mayakoba in November. He said that he had spent more than three of these months without ever touching a club, devoted his attention to personal recovery, and spent time at home with his wife and three young sons. Golf went so far back that Kirk didn't just see a scenario in which he might never win again - he imagined he might get away from the game entirely.
"I remember thinking I wanted to do something where I would succeed if I worked really hard," said Kirk. “Hard work is a basic requirement in professional golf. Everyone out here works really hard, but that doesn't guarantee you anything. It was one of the feelings I had that I didn't want to hit my head against the wall anymore. "
Eventually, the inner desire returned that fueled his previous success on the PGA Tour. His game quickly became a form, even if he only played once a week during the tour's unexpected break. The time at home with his boys on his 40 hectare estate in Athens, Georgia was good for his soul.
So he showed himself in relative anonymity at this week's event in Florida at number 522 in the world. And on a course that had many low scores throughout the week, his 54-hole series still left him four shots from the lead to the final without a single bogey.
But Kirk is as steadfast as they come, and Saturday's lap was no exception. It only took seven holes to turn a four-shot deficit into a two-shot lead. Even after his lonely stumble of the week (a double bogey in 10th place) made things a little more interesting on the course, he could go up and down for birdie from the 18th green to finish a final round 67 and a one- Shot win against Justin Lower.
Kirk is more grateful after the KFT victory
Full field scores of the King and Bear Classic in the World Golf Village
It's Kirk's first win since Colonial in 2015 and his first top 10 result in over two years. But more importantly, it's a post-recovery flood brand that he now hopes will be a long career.
"I think it just means more with everything he went through," said Caddy Michael Cromie, who played like Kirk College golf in Georgia. “He took everything and took a step back from the game. And then when the virus started, it was like, "Man, I only forced myself for 6-7 months, and now I'm gone." So he just wanted to play, and it's pretty cool that he could do it do it back on its second start. "
Kirk returned from the Colonial break last week, which he described as his favorite tour tour. But when he crossed the line and returned to the ropes, he noticed that something was missing. The stoic, inner self-confidence, the voice that once assured him that he was one of the best players in every field while winning and finishing second at the FedExCup 2014 was silent.
"I didn't feel like I was one of the best players there," he admitted. “When I played really well and was in the top 50 in the world and won tournaments, I never felt that way. I will never be a high-spirited person who will say anything, but I had an immense belief in what I did with my game, and it has been missing somehow lately. "
With an oversized heritage field that made his status as the first alternative virtually unusable, Kirk could have taken a week off and spent more time at home. His PGA tour status is out of the question as he will return to his usual ranks in Detroit in two weeks.
Instead, he decided to lower a level and roll the dice with an unexpected start in his first Korn Ferry event since 2010. The result was a look at his potential and what he hopes will be a breakthrough victory that could spur further results. He continues on his way to recovery on and off the course.
"I hope that some of the footage I took on the track today will give me a little more when I return to the PGA tour because I know my good is good enough," said Kirk. "It's just about seeing and feeling it and transferring part of this dynamic."
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