2,836 days later, Chris Kirk a winner once more
After 2,836 days, Chris Kirk is back in the winner's circle.
The journey though, hasn’t been easy for Kirk, 37, who stepped away from golf in May 2019 to treat alcoholism and depression.
After a major medical extension, Kirk returned to the PGA Tour before needing a two-way tie for third place or better at the 2021 Sony Open in order to retain his Tour card. He finished T-2 that week, and can now call himself Champion once again as the now five-time PGA Tour winner bested 34-year-old rookie Eric Cole on the first playoff hole at the Honda Classic to claim his first victory since the 2015 Charles Schwab Cup Challenge.
I just have so much to be thankful for
“I just have so much to be thankful for,” Kirk said after winning. “I’m so grateful for my sobriety, I’m so grateful for my family, I’m so grateful for everyone that has supported throughout the past three or four years.”
On the 72nd hole at PGA National, Kirk went to the par-5 18th with a one-stroke lead. His second shot, however, missed the green by inches, ricocheting off the rocks into the water en route to a bogey. Cole would made par to force a playoff.
On the first extra hole, Kirk stuck his third shot to tap-in range. Cole lipped out a 10-footer for birdie to extend the playoff — and Kirk was a champion again.
The former Georgia Bulldog, had leveraged back-to-back third-place finishes earlier this year at the Sony Open and The American Express, launching him to 12th on the U.S. Ryder Cup Rankings list entering the week. After his triumph in Florida, however, he's within the automatic qualifying threshold, sitting sixth on the points list. Kirk has never made a U.S. Ryder Cup team, but did play in the 2015 Presidents Cup.
Cole, who has over 50 mini-tour victories, was 88th on the points list coming to PGA National, but after nearly winning in his 15th-ever Tour start, now sits at 21st. Cole now heads to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he won a club championship as a teenager.
Tyler Duncan, the 2019 RSM Classic winner, finished solo third at PGA National, propelling him from No. 100 to 31st on the points list. Other notables include Ryan Gerard, who had zero Ryder Cup points to his name entering the week.
The 24-year-old had to qualify for the Honda Classic early in the week, prevailing in a five-for-three playoff to earn his first non-major Tour event start. Gerard, who has only conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour, finished fourth at PGA National and moves to 61st on the Rankings list.
U.S. Team Captain Zach Johnson first announced the 2023 qualifying structure last year. Points in 2023 are awarded as follows:
- 1 point per $1,000 earned at regular PGA Tour events beginning January 1, including the Zurich Classic and WGC events, through the BMW Championship (August 20)
- 2 points per $1,000 earned for winner of the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and The Open
- 1.5 points per $1,000 earned for all others that make the cut at the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and The Open
- No points available at PGA Tour opposite-field events
Points qualification will conclude immediately after the second FedEx Cup Play-Off event (BMW Championship) on August 20, 2023, with the top six eligible players on the points list securing spots on the U.S. Team.
The six remaining slots on the U.S. Team will be Captain’s Selections and will be announced by Johnson following the 2023 Tour Championship.
For a full list of the Top 100 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings, click here.