In May this year, four-time PGA Tour winner Chris Kirk announced just a day before his 34th birthday that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence after admitting he was suffering from alcoholism and depression.
The statement back in May read: "I have dealt with alcohol abuse and depression for some time now. I thought I could control it, but after multiple relapses I have come to realize that I can't fix this on my own. I will be taking an indefinite leave from the PGA Tour to deal with these issues. I don't know when I will be back, but for now I need my full focus on being the man my family deserves. Thank you for the support."
Kirk is returning to the sport at this week's Mayakoba Golf Classic and in an interview with the PGA Tour, Kirk opened up about his battle with alcohol.
In the interview, Kirk explained that his family has a history with alcoholism and when he and his wife had children, he started feeling pressure to provide for his family, which increased his anxiety and lead him to further alcohol abuse.
Kirk said that he never drank before or during a round, but he would have to drink a certain amount the night before in order to function properly the next day.
“I've got to drink the right amount at night so that I feel normal the next day,” said Kirk. “Not too much so that I'm really hung over, but I can't not have anything or I'm going to feel weird the next day.”
The amount of beer Kirk was drinking began to take a toll on his physical appearance, so after noticing a weight gain, he switched to vodka, bourbon and wine. “Switching from beer to hard liquor probably accelerated things for me a little bit as well,” he says.
"Everybody has issues," said Kirk. "Everybody has stuff that is bothering them that they need to work on. This just happens to be my thing."
After making the decision to quit golf, Kirk started seeking the help of a psychiatrist who helped him with his anxiety, while he also saw a sports psychologist.
Kirk, who represented Team USA at the 2015 Presidents Cup after reaching a career high of 16th in the world, has been practicing for his return, but is keen to make sure he doesn't let the pressures of the sport get the better of him.
“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.”