Chris Kirk is set to return to the PGA Tour this week, ending the 34-year-old’s six-month leave of absence for alcohol abuse and depression.
Prior to playing in next week’s Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, Kirk revealed the depths of his problems in an interview with the PGA Tour website, which he said stems from a history of alcoholism in his family. Kirk, who was ranked as high as No. 16 in the world, said he never drank before or during a round of play, but found the pressures of providing for his growing family caused him to increase his drinking on the road.
“I’ve got to drink the right amount at night so that I feel normal the next day,” Kirk said. “Not too much so that I’m really hungover, but I can’t not have anything or I’m going to feel weird the next day.”
Kirk said he briefly quit drinking towards the end of 2018, but soon relapsed, causing issues with his wife. By April, Kirk decided he needed to leave the sport in order to address his problems. The Tennessee native has since begun seeing a psychiatrist — from whom he received anti-anxiety medication — and a sports psychologist, while also entering the 12-step program.
“Everybody has issues,” Kirk says. “Everybody has stuff that is bothering them that they need to work on. This just happens to be my thing.”
Kirk said he didn’t swing a club for nearly four months, and is setting no expectations for his return. His only focus is making one of the world’s most desirable jobs feel fun again.
“I am not willing to go back to making it feel like a job. I am not willing to go back to beating myself up when I do not play well,” Kirk says. “That is something that is a struggle for every PGA Tour player because you are out there. Everything is right there for everyone to see. When you play well, people treat you differently than when you do not play well. You have the tendency to treat yourself a lot differently when you play well than when you do not play well.”