Chris Kirk didn’t waste any time Thursday trying to build on his restoration.
Two weeks after winning the Korn Ferry Tour’s King & Bear Classic, Kirk kept the momentum going in the first round of the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, posting a 5-under-par 67 at Detroit Golf Club in Michigan. Kirk had the solo lead in the morning until a late bogey dropped him back.
A four-time PGA Tour winner, Kirk took a six-month leave of absence last year to deal with alcohol abuse and depression. Once as high as No. 16 in the world, he plummeted outside the top 500 while addressing challenges more serious than a golf score.
“I have my health,” Kirk said upon his return last fall. “I have my family. We are happy.”
Kirk is getting his game where he wants it again, too. He rolled in a 30-foot eagle at his fifth hole (No. 14) Thursday to jump start a round of five birdies, two bogeys and the eagle.
With five missed cuts in his first seven starts this season, Kirk needed the confidence boost the King & Bear Classic gave him. He chose to forgo a spot as first alternate at the RBC Heritage to play the Korn Ferry Tour event in St. Augustine, Florida.
“It just gave me a little bit more belief,” Kirk said. “I think that before that, I knew that I was playing well, but, obviously, wasn’t seeing much in the way of results, but was happy with my golf swing and felt like I was working on the right things with my putting.”
The King & Bear Classic title was his first victory anywhere in five years.
“Nothing can replace the confidence you get from shooting some low numbers and playing well when it counts,” he said.
After hitting 11 fairways and 14 greens in Detroit, Kirk was ranked seventh in strokes gained: tee to green as he signed his scorecard.
“Really happy with the way I drove it, hit a lot of good shots,” he said. “A couple loose ones here and there, but overall really good … I was just really steady, a lot of good shots, holed some nice putts.”