Kisner's motto for 2016: Don't be Ronda Rousey

By Doug FergusonJanuary 8, 2016, 8:30 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii - Kevin Kisner has a motto for 2016 that surely is unlike that of any other player on the PGA Tour.

Don't be Ronda Rousey.

''Make sure we don't do so many commercials, get caught up in celebrity and then get knocked out in the second round,'' his swing coach, John Tillery, said with a laugh. The reference was to the UFC women's bantamweight title fight in Australia two months ago when Rousey was floored by a kick to the head by Holly Holm.

Kisner is nowhere near that level of celebrity.

But for all the talk about encores going into the new year - Jordan Spieth, Jason Day - that should apply to Kisner.

The 31-year-old from South Carolina might be the best golfer hardly anyone knows.

One year ago, he was No 236 in the world after he narrowly kept his PGA Tour card while overhauling a swing that had gotten so out of whack he nearly quit the game. Kisner goes into the new year at No. 17 in the world, and it was no accident.

Kisner earned a small slice of PGA Tour history as the only player to lose three playoffs in one season without winning a tournament. And it's not as if he couldn't handle the pressure. He birdied the 18th hole in regulation and in the playoff at Hilton Head before Jim Furyk beat him on the second extra hole. He matched birdies with Rickie Fowler until losing to a birdie on the fourth playoff hole at The Players Championship.

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He also lost in a four-man playoff at The Greenbrier, and he was runner-up a fourth time in 2015 at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. In the final tournament of the calendar year (part of a new PGA Tour season), Kisner showed his moxie by turning a three-shot lead into a six-shot victory at Sea Island.

Kisner thus fulfilled a pledge to Tillery when he sought his help at the low point of his golfing career.

''All I ever told J.T. was to get me in position where I could hit it a little better and I can win out here,'' Kisner said.

He resumes the PGA Tour season at Kapalua as the leader in the FedEx Cup because of his win at Sea Island and second-place finish in Shanghai. Still to be determined is whether last year was as good as it gets or if the best is still to come.

What makes Kisner intriguing is his personality. He is loaded with confidence and grit, but it's hidden behind his straight-shooting, homespun Southern nature. With a slight build, he doesn't stand out among the new power regime in golf. And he understands why only the hardiest of golf fans would know him.

''This Tour doesn't market the guy that finishes 111th,'' Kisner said after opening with a 69 in the first round at Kapalua. ''You have to win and be in the hunt for people to know who you are. I was a bottom feeder barely keeping my card.''

He has the pedigree, even if his career record to this point suggests journeyman.

Kisner was the first player at Georgia to be an All-American all four years, but he lost his way as a pro. He didn't come close to keeping his card his first two years on the PGA Tour. And even after he won on the Tour in early 2013 - in effect, assuring a trip back to the big leagues - he knew was going the wrong way.

And that's when he went to Tillery, whom he knew through Scott Brown, his close friend and neighbor in Aiken, South Carolina.

''When I went to see him, I had already locked up my Tour card and I was ready to quit,'' Kisner said. ''It was that bad.''

Tillery had seen plenty of him through Brown, and he had a clear picture of what needed to change when Kisner hired him. Kisner said his pivot was bad and his arms didn't fit in sequence with his body, making his swing steep.

''To most of the golf world, he just showed up one day,'' Tillery said. ''But there was a solid five to six months of grinding through changes. He was determined to stay on the path and know he was working on the right things. And he had a lot of hidden qualities being a good putter, a super good guy and he believed. As soon has he got in position where he believed he swung it good and could drive it play, that confidence of his just poured on top of all that.''

Kisner is more about the process than the goals. It didn't shake him when he kept getting into playoffs and seeing someone else hold the trophy. The only two goals he mentioned for 2016 were to play in the Ryder Cup and his debut in the Masters.

''I love Jordan's quote about encores meaning the show is over,'' he said. ''It's not over. If I keep playing the way I'm playing and getting in contention, that's what I want to do. I love having a chance to win.''

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x