DETROIT – Chris Kirk it's exactly where he wants to be, and it's not just that he finds himself sitting at the top of the leaderboard at The Rocket Mortgage Classic.
After a second round of 67 years, Kirk is tied for the lead at age 12 with Webb Simpson after two rounds with a chance to win the tournament. But where he is and his level of confidence has more to do with the battle against alcoholism, anxiety and depression after working for sobriety.
It took him the past 15 months to focus on his health and mental well-being while battling his alcohol addiction and depression. In those 15 months, Kirk took seven months off the game to help him get back on the path he knew he needed to follow.
He had been successful on the PGA Tour before, climbing to 16th place in the world golf ranking in 2015, but he was struggling and struggling much more than other players on the field. He tried to stop drinking several times, but failed on his own.
His depression and anxiety overcame him and he found himself returning to the bottle, no matter how hard he tried to stop.
On April 29, 2019, Kirk knew he needed a change. He couldn't go on living like that and he knew he couldn't be the husband and father he wanted to be if he continued on that path. That day, he decided to make a change, stop drinking and seek help for his addiction.
Almost a week later, on May 7, Kirk released a message on Twitter announcing that he was only one day away from his 34th birthday, but he had already started a new and better chapter in his life.
Tomorrow I will celebrate my 34th birthday, but I have already started a new and better chapter in my life. Thanks to my friends and family for being there for me. pic.twitter.com/XJjFYyojlh
– Chris Kirk (@Chris_Kirk_) May 7, 2019
Kirk took time off until November, working alone, instead of perfecting his golf game. Having been involved in the routine of professional golf, trying to be a perfect player, trying to make a living for his family and embracing the competitive nature of the game, Kirk left his absence with a new perspective and a new perspective. vision of your life and professional career.
He went from being a person full of anxiety and fear to enjoying the moment he is in, realizing that he cannot control everything that happens.
Navigating life as a professional athlete can be overwhelming and this lifestyle has taken over. The constant travel and the emptiness of being alone on the road filled his mind and helped boost his alcoholism.
When he stopped playing golf, he didn't know what to think about his future. He also didn't care much at the time. He was focused on staying healthy and being there for his family.
"I definitely felt like I didn't feel like playing golf for several months," said Kirk. "It wasn't like this: & # 39; Oh, I hate golf, I never want to do it again & # 39 ;. I just had no real desire to do it. I felt busy working on what I was working on. I started playing golf at home about once a week and right after that, my love for the game came back and my love for competing after that ".
This love of the game drove him back to golf last November, and now he had a new challenge ahead of him. As a sober man, he had to find his way back to the PGA Tour.
He has four wins on the PGA Tour; one in 2011, two in 2014 at the McGladrey Classic and the Deutsche Bank Championship, and again in 2015 at Colonial's Crowne Plaza Invitational.
He found his way mentally and felt he could do it again professionally.
The first tournament he entered was the Mayakoba Classic, where he finished tied for 33rd. He then missed five cuts and saw another break in his career on the PGA Tour, when the Tour stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Coming back from something so public was naturally stressful, but having a better balance between your work and life gave you the confidence to move forward.
"Am I at the comfort level I was five years ago? Probably not," said Kirk. "But when it comes to my life in general, I'm probably at a high level of comfort at all times. I think a lot of that applies to my golf game and how I feel on the golf course."
That level of comfort and calm in your life has given you a new perspective on your career. It is not easy and his performance does not define who he is as a person.
That said, he still wants to win and wants to succeed on the tour.
Kirk made the cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge in June, finishing 60th in the first lap event after the COVID-19 shutdown. The following week, he took advantage of the moment and won The King & Bear Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour, overcoming a deficit of four strokes in the final round.
This victory was a feeling of relief.
His battle with anxiety and depression had not won. His alcoholism had not won.
"It gave me a little more confidence. I think before that I knew I was playing well, but obviously I wasn't seeing much in terms of results," said Kirk. "But I was happy with my golf swing and I felt like I was working on the right things with my placement, but nothing can replace the confidence you get from recording some low numbers and playing well when it counts."
He was once one of the top 20 players in the world golf ranking and is now in the 265 overall. Now, he has a piece of the lead in the Rocket Mortgage Classic after two rounds.
Despite this ranking, he is exactly where he wants to be – with his friends, his family, his own mental health. While a victory on the Korn Ferry Tour two weeks ago gave him some validation that he is doing the right things, he wants to make sure that he is taking the right course in his life.
He is no longer so controlling and eager for all aspects of his golf game. He wants to win again on the PGA Tour would be a welcome feeling. It is something he is looking for and competing for, but in this new state of mind, Kirk knows he has a lot more around him.
"It's hard for me to really think about (a win), what exactly that would mean," said Kirk. "It would be something that would be extremely important to me and probably very emotional, but we are a long way from that."