Confident Chris Kirk defends title at Cognizant Classic

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 4:34 PM

Last year’s triumph at the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic was a story about redemption for Chris Kirk.

Both the name of the tournament and the trajectory of Kirk’s career are totally different this time around.

Kirk discussed his journey ahead of this week’s Cognizant Classic, which begins Thursday at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

“Amazing just coming back on the property and a lot of good memories from last year for sure, but also a place that I’ve loved coming for years and years,” he told reporters Tuesday.

Kirk defeated Eric Cole in a playoff at last year’s tournament, his first win since taking a break from the tour to treat alcoholism and depression in 2019. It was his fifth PGA Tour win and first since The Colonial in 2015.

Kirk, 38, has climbed to No. 27 in the Official World Golf Ranking after adding to his trophy case with a victory at The Sentry in January to kick off the 2024 season. The signature win in Maui came with a $3.6 million payday.

“To start off the year like that is just wild,” Kirk said. “I’ve felt good about my game for a while now, but that’s certainly not exactly what you expect to do your first week out after being a home for a little while.

“But I think that my win here last year definitely helped me a lot … to be more comfortable where I was at and just to be able to stay aggressive and take it one step at a time, and definitely kind of gave me the belief that after not winning for a long time, it felt like this was where I was supposed to be.”

Kirk’s best finish since The Sentry was a T18 the following week at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He missed the cut at The Genesis Invitational at Riviera earlier this month.

As someone who has battled challenges on and off the course, Kirk said his goal this week and beyond is to get the most out of his ability.

“My mindset now at this stage of my career is I just want to play as well as I can for as long as I can,” he said. “I want to be a relevant player in this game, and I want to see how good I can be.

“That’s sort of always what we’re chasing. I’m not necessarily chasing, ‘Oh, I want to be the No. 1 player in the world and win 10 majors.’ I just want to see what is the best version of myself and try to enjoy the work that I’ve put in to try to achieve that goal as much as possible, whatever that may end up looking like.”

–Field Level Media