After long road to Tour, Kisner again in weekend mix

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2016, 5:30 pm

HONOLULU - Kevin Kisner can get used to this kind of living, and this kind of playing.

He was one shot out of the lead through two rounds of the Sony Open, his fourth straight PGA Tour event where he has been in the final group going into the weekend. Later that afternoon, he was headed back to a hotel on Waikiki Beach to sit at the pool with his wife and 18-month-old daughter.

Over the last 12 months, he has earned just over $5 million.

Just don't get the idea it was always this way.

For three years after graduating from Georgia, the 31-year-old Kisner played whatever tour he could. There were times he would finish an event on the Hooters Tour and drive most of the night to try for Monday qualifying on the Nationwide Tour.

''I always remember I won a Tar Heel Tour event in Greensboro and I had to be in Memphis the next day for my U.S. Open sectional qualifying,'' he said. ''And I drove all through the night to get there. I remember getting there thinking, 'Man, this is brutal.'''

Ultimately, it was the worth the journey.

Kisner certainly isn't the only player to take the long road to the big leagues. Zach Johnson can still remember his car - a Dodge Intrepid - that he drove across the heartland of America to play the Teardrop Tour, the Dakotas Tour and even something called the Prairie Tour. William McGirt remembers one season on the mini-tours when he saw his wife for eight days during a four-month stretch.

Russell Knox still considers a Hooters Tour victory in Mississippi nearly as significant as the World Golf Championship he won in Shanghai.

They have such vivid memories of what might look like the worst times of their lives.

Knox can remember the yardage (185 yards) and club (6-iron) from the shot that made him believe he should keep pursuing his dream. Kisner was talking the other day about his history in match play because he will be eligible for the Dell Match Play this spring.

It must have been when he was at Georgia. No, wait. There was a Tar Heel event that was match play that he won.

Who did he beat? There was no hesitation.

''Reid Edstrom,'' he said.

Sure enough, archives show him beating McGirt, of all people, in a 21-hole semifinal and then Edstrom in the final.

These are great times for Kisner. The tough times made it possible, and it shaped him.

''I look at it as experience. All that stuff is a culmination of where I am now,'' Kisner said. ''It's what makes me hopefully look the way I am on the golf course, as someone who is appreciative of all we have. I never want to be the guy that people say, 'Well, he's gone to the other side where he doesn't appreciate playing the PGA Tour.'''

He remembers one time during his days on what is now the eGolf Tour in Charlotte, North Carolina, when his wife (then girlfriend) Brittany came up to watch him play. He was staying in what he described as the worst hotel of all his days in the minor leagues.

''She made me move,'' he said. ''I went to a Holiday Inn Express and thought we were living in luxury.''

Don't be mistaken. He wouldn't trade his life on the PGA Tour for anything. Kisner is No. 16 in the world, eligible for the Masters for the first time, dreaming of a chance to play in the Ryder Cup in the fall. It was hard work, and it was worth it.

He recalls his father giving him a check for either $16,000 or $18,000 to support his dream, and he never had to ask for any more money. Kisner said there were two straight years when he played well enough on the eGolf Tour to bring in $100,000.

That's nearly what 18th place paid at Kapalua last week. Then again, expenses were different. He was staying in the Sleep Inn, not the Ritz-Carlton at Kapalua.

He doesn't miss those days. Even so, the memories are strong. It wasn't about seven-figure checks or five-star hotels.

It was about the grind.

''I always thought what was cool was the camaraderie of the players,'' he said. ''We all holed up in hotels together. We all ate together every night. And we traveled together. You get in the car and four Tahoes would be driving down the interstate for six hours through the night, and that's how we got by. We looked out for each other. And you don't get that anymore. I have a family, and that's who I look out for.

''It changes. Your life changes,'' he said. ''It was like a fraternity back then.''

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.

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While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm