Chris Kirk looks to end long winless skid at 2023 Sony Open in Hawaii
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Chris Kirk looks to end long winless skid at 2023 Sony Open in Hawaii

A picture of golfer Chris Kirk Getty via Mizuno

It has been 7 years, 7 months and 21 days since Chris Kirk won for the fourth time in his PGA Tour career, taking home what was then the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in May 2015.

A lot has happened in Kirk's life since, including making the choice in 2019 to take a leave of absence from the PGA Tour to confront his alcohol addiction and seek treatment for depression. He found his low. He came back from it. Last year, he recorded his best-ever major finish with a tie for fifth at the PGA Championship.

Now he finds himself in position to reach a new, higher level. At 11-under 129 through two rounds at Waialae Country Club, Kirk has the lead at the 2023 Sony Open in Hawaii.

Kirk followed up an opening 64 with a Friday 65 to find himself atop the leaderboard. After opening with three-consecutive birdies, Kirk went into a lull with a bogey at No. 6. However, coming into the house, Kirk rallied for three birdies to get into the lead. He acknowledged it was difficult to turn a hot start into a go-low round.

"I don't know. It's hard," he said. "That's the hardest part about what we do for sure, the mental side of it. It's something that I love the challenge of. It's so difficult to be great at this game professionally in the mental side.

"So I don't know if I did a good job today or not, but thankfully did on the back nine anyway. I think that I definitely always remind myself that pressure is a privilege when you start feeling a little bit of nerves."

While Kirk hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 2015, he has won in a big way. In 2020, Kirk won on the Korn Ferry Tour in the King and The Bear Classic, an event concocted by the developmental circuit to salvage a schedule amid the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But no matter the gap between wins, Kirk remembers them vividly -- and differently.

"It always feels different," he said Friday. "Every time it feels different. I remember that from my wins on tour. There were some times where I felt great and felt confident in everything I was doing, and there were times where maybe I just felt okay and still was somehow able to do it."

With two rounds to go and plenty of challengers looking to track him down, Kirk knows he can't let self-doubt creep in, and he can't get too sure of himself.

"I think one important thing for me is to not give my thoughts too much credit," he said. "Like it's easy to fall into the trap of if you think something negative, Oh, I'm screwed now. But we all -- myself and every other player in the field here -- we all have a pretty incredible ability to play golf, whether we're thinking good or not."

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Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is a scratch golfer...sometimes.

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