Chris Kirk battled alcoholism and depression — now he has won the Honda Classic for his first PGA Tour victory in seven years



It had been 2,836 days since Chris Kirk last won on the PGA Tour. Yet after securing his first victory in seven years on Sunday, that was not the first milestone on the American golfer’s mind.

A nail-biting playoff victory over compatriot Eric Cole at the Honda Classic in Florida sealed the American’s fifth PGA Tour title, and his first since committing to sobriety nearly four years ago.

“Everything I’ve accomplished in my entire life I owe to my sobriety,” Kirk told reporters at the PGA National Resort.

“I don’t do this for a living anymore. I probably wouldn’t have the family I have right now. I came really close to losing everything I cared about.

“It happened for me and to work, obviously there were some decisions that I made, but mostly the grace of God and a lot of other people really helped me.

“It’s something that’s constantly in the back of my mind, so it’s very easy for me to see winning the Honda Classic as a bonus when really I owe everything good in my life.”

On the eve of his 34th birthday in May 2019, Kirk announced that he was taking “indefinite leave” from golf to deal with his alcohol abuse and depression.

“I thought I could control it, but after several relapses, I’ve realized I can’t fix it on my own,” Kirk said in one. Social media post.

By then his world ranking, which had been 16th since his fourth PGA Tour victory at the Colonial Tournament in 2015, had fallen to 188th. He had failed to make the cut in four consecutive events, missing just 17 events over a total of 11 in the 2018-19 PGA Tour season.

A tie-15th finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational marked Kirk’s only top-40 finish of the campaign.

When he returned to the Tour at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November 2019, his ranking had slipped further – he was world No. 303 – but Kirk was a rejuvenated man.

A candid interview On the eve of his comeback, the PGA Tour highlighted the golfer’s previous failed attempts to quit alcohol.

Kirk, who said his family had a history of drinking, added that he gave up beer in late 2017, switching to wine and hard liquor such as vodka and bourbon. The switch was a decision to deal with his increasing weight, but it served to “accelerate” his alcohol issues.

For Kirk, his openness was simply about personal catharsis. Afterwards, the response from others blew him away.

Kirk was congratulated by his caddy after the win.

“It’s a lot of people who have reached out to me directly and said, ‘I read your story or I heard your story and it made me decide it’s time. [to quit],” Kirk said.

“When I first came back to play and was very open and honest about it, it wasn’t on my mind at all. It was more for me … because I felt that I had lived this life for years where I was lying to myself, lying to my family, hiding a lot of things.

“So the honesty of the process that I went through to get better felt so good that I had nothing to hide, and so it was a natural thing for me to do.

“But now a little bit on the back end, it’s been amazing. Like I said, it’s not something I’ve actually seen happen, but to be able to connect with people and … for someone to say, ‘I’m sober because of you, and my life changed because of you. Gone,’ you can’t really describe how surreal it is with words.”

On Sunday, disaster appeared for Kirk on the 18th when his second shot went into a water hazard on the right side of the hole.

The American recovered well, but his subsequent bogey saw him crash out in a playoff against Cole, his 34-year-old compatriot – ranked 330th in the world before the event – who was chasing his first PGA Tour title. .

For both players, it marked their first PGA Tour playoff experience, and for Kirk, it meant a replay of the hole that crushed him moments earlier.

Again, Kirk appeared to slide into a heartbreaking collapse when his tee shot landed near a tree. However, a brilliant response saw the 37-year-old spark a 267-yard effort into the greenside bunker before nearly catching his subsequent eagle approach from the sand.

When Cole’s birdie putt rolled around the lip of the hole, Kirk tapped home for birdie and the win.

Sunday’s victory moved Kirk to 32nd in the world and sixth in the FedEx Cup rankings, with him receiving $1,512,000 in prize money. Just as sweetly, it earns him a spot at the Masters in April and gives him the chance to take his wife and three sons to Augusta.

“I’m watching that world ranking closely, trying to stay in the top 50, but to hold it this week, it’s going to be something that’s incredibly special,” Kirk said. ” Kirk said.

“That par-3 contest can’t come soon enough. I’m really looking forward to it. All week, but it will be great to be able to make those memories with my wife and my kids. ”

On Thursday, Kirk will tee off in Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Sunday will be Kirk’s first chance to toast his victory with family on the eve of the tournament, celebrating the win with friends over a Diet Coke.

“It will be very celebratory, and I thank God that alcohol will not be a part of it,” Kirk said.

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