Chris Kirk: Going through life centered

Like most people, I didn’t pay much attention to Chris Kirk as the season unfolded. He had already won the Viking Classic in 2011, an opposite field event to the British Open. It was played in Madison, Mississippi, and the lesser purse was only $648,000 compared to over a million dollars had it been a regular PGA Tour event.

And when he finally did win a regular PGA Tour event at the beginning of the season, it was the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island, Georgia, his former home. It was a great tournament for those players who were really hungry, but it was tucked in right after the WGC-HSBC Champions in Hong Kong where most of the top players played.

But a win is a win and if it was easy, there would be a new winner each week. As deep as the talent pool is on the PGA Tour, that might be possible one day, but we’re not there yet.

As the season went on, I knew I wrote his name from time to time, so he was at least in contention on some days in the tournaments (a 2nd at Sony in Hawaii and a T4 in Jack’s Memorial).

But it wasn’t really until I started writing about the implications of The Playoffs on the players’ chances to make the Ryder Cup team that Kirk really got my attention; he was 14th on the points list with only 12 players making the team, 3 by Captain’s picks. How did that happen? 

Most of it happened because as he said in his Deutsche Bank Championship victory session with the media, “I’m not really a big goals guy, just process.” Goals are too far away; process is right here, right now. You may have some generalized goals to set the course of the boat, but sailing is all about being in the moment with the wind in your face.

But he doesn’t even do minimal goal setting at the beginning of the year. And because he’s just busy whirring around in the moment realizing its simple satisfactions, he doesn’t feel disappointed that his victory didn’t attract a Captain’s pick from Tom Watson:

“No, I’m not a really a goal setting person. I don’t ever set any goals at all, at the beginning of the year. So, obviously that wasn’t one of them, if I don’t have any. But like I said, if you ask me or if you asked anybody if I thought that I was going to get picked before the tournament last week, you would have said absolutely not.”

“Even though I had a very good year and was kind of in contention for it. I didn’t play well enough the last few months to get into that top nine or to — I was maybe somewhere, somewhat on the radar — but we wouldn’t even be talking — if I hadn’t won the tournament, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.”

“So, there’s no point in me being disappointed at all. I just — like I said, if I had finished 15th last week, I wouldn’t have had a single Ryder Cup question in the last three or four days. So, there’s really no reason for me to be disappointed at all.”

And he finds himself having to defend himself over perhaps being a little nonchalant over his interest in the Ryder Cup. Ahead of the team announcements, he said that he had tickets to the Georgia/Tennessee game (he’s a Georgia alum) and that’s where he expected to be. Some took his realism for indifference:

“People shouldn’t make the more of a big deal about the Georgia game than it is. I was joking, really. I mean I will be going to the Georgia game, obviously.”

“But no, I’m only a little bit bummed that I didn’t make the team. I’m mostly just really, really excited that I won the biggest tournament of my career, and I moved to No. 1 in the FedExCup list. It was slightly disappointing.”

“I watched the replay of the coverage yesterday, and the announcers said that I said that I didn’t want a Ryder Cup pick. They said that on the coverage, and that couldn’t have been further from the truth, and I definitely never said that.”

“So, I would love to have been on the team, but I’m just really focused on what’s in front of me right now, and this playoff race here, and hopefully, I’ll be on a bunch of Ryder Cup cups teams to come.”

Was there anything more that he feels he could have done to make the team? Well, if he was in his process that led him to his Deutsche Bank win, he was probably already doing everything he could have done; that’s the purpose of being embedded in the moment:

“I don’t know. I don’t know if my nonchalant attitude about the Ryder Cup had any affect on what Tom thinks, I certainly hope not. I hope that I haven’t sort of sent the wrong message. I would love nothing more than to play on the Ryder Cup. But, maybe I don’t live and die by it like some guys do.”

“But, it would be a huge honor, and I would love to play on one and I hope to play on a lot of teams. But I doubt that my attitude towards it had anything to do with what Tom decided.”

So in the meantime, it will be engaging to watch him wend his way through this BMW Championship with that fully engrossed way of being he exhibits. (He did, however, joke that he got excited enough last week that he fist bumped twice and that he did bungee jump once as a kid.)

And with the Tour Championship and FedExCup behind him in two weeks, will he turn right around and play the first two tournaments of the 2015 season, Las Vegas and Kuala Lumpur at the end of October? Or will he wait for his home game at McGladrey to come around again in mid-November.

Whatever he chooses for 2015, he won’t surprise me again. If I look up at the end of the year and see him on the Presidents Cup team points list, I’m going to be pretty nonchalant.

That’s eventually what happens when you focus on process.

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