What Makes Chris Kirk a Special Golf Comeback Story
WHEN Tiger Woods won The Masters in 2019 it was hailed by some as the greatest sporting comeback the world has ever seen. I would venture to suggest that what Chris Kirk achieved at the Honda Classic comes pretty close.
There will be those who will point to the strength of the field - there was no Jon Rahm, no Scottie Scheffler and no Rory McIlroy. But the shot he produced at the first extra hole was simply world class. Having been forced to lay up at the par-five 18th hole after a wayward tee shot, Kirk almost holed his third shot.
So what makes his victory so special?
Kirk hit rock bottom in 2019. Years on tour had taken their toll. Spending 30 weeks a years on the road and endless hours alone in a hotel room, he started to drink. At first it was beer but he realised he was putting weight on so cut that out and turned to spirits. And by April 2019 he was dependent. He was an alcoholic, and he knew it.
His light-bulb moment came on April 29, 2019. Kirk had awoken with another hangover in New Orleans, still wearing the same clothes from the night before, and it was a scenario that had become far too familiar.
He knew it was time to do something. So he headed home to Athens, Georgia, and talked to his wife, Tahnee, before calling his agent. He told them he had to stop playing and get himself sober.
Kirk was a proper golfer, climbing to 16th in the world rankings, but travelling alone on the road for so much of they year was killing him, so he announced that he was taking time away from the game.
Those who knew him suspected why but he decided to address the issue on Twitter before making his comeback in November 2019.
"When I first came back to playing I was very open and honest about it," he said. "It was for me because I felt I had lived this life for a number of years where I was just lying to myself, lying to my family, hiding a lot of things."
It is no surprise, then, that his victory at Palm Beach Gardens meant so much to him. It signified that he had come full circle. After his win - his first since 2015 - he said: "I'm just so thankful to be able to do what I do for a living.
"I owe everything that I have in my entire life to my sobriety. I wouldn't be doing this for a living anymore. I probably wouldn't have the family that I have currently anymore. I came really close to losing everything that I cared about."
Kirk can now look forward to playing in The Masters at Augusta for the first time since missing the cut on his third appearance way back in 2016. Even before winning the Honda Classic, Kirk had bene on the cusp of clinching a place at Augusta as he edged towards the top 50 in the world rankings but the win sealed the deal.
"That's usually not something I care a whole lot about, but I have not played The Masters since 2016," Kirk said. “Growing up in Georgia, that kind of means everything to me. So I've been watching the world ranking closely, trying to stay in the top 50."
Kirk's two eldest sons were too young to have any idea about the Masters last time he was there, but not this time. "They'll be 11 and 9, and Wilder, my third son, will be five. "That par-three contest can't come soon enough. I'm really looking forward to that.
"Just to be able to make those memories with my wife and my kids will be awesome.”
It is a truly heart-warming redemption story.
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