Kisner fights instinct, sticks to game plan at PGA

By Rex HoggardAugust 11, 2017, 8:45 pm

Updated, 7:45 p.m. ET

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kevin Kisner is a statistical anomaly, a ShotLink unicorn who for two rounds has defied all that we thought we knew about the new and improved Quail Hollow Club.

At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds he’s done what the hard swinging likes of Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson could not – post consecutive rounds in the 60s and move into a share of the lead with Hideki Matsuyama at the PGA Championship.

The PGA Quail Hollow was supposed to be a bomber’s utopia where the game’s biggest and brightest would have an overwhelming advantage.

Kisner had other plans.

The 127th-longest driver on the PGA Tour, that’s out of 202 players for those keeping track, made the two-hour drive from his home in South Carolina to Quail Hollow last month for a scouting trip and came away with a common impression.

“It was raining and wet, and I said, ‘Man, this place is going to be so long; I don't know how they are going to compete,’” he said on Friday following his second-consecutive 67.

Turns out there is a plan for Kisner to play the sprawling North Carolina gem; it just took a little research and a monsoon of patience – which has not always been among the 33-year-old’s strengths.


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog: Day 2 | Full coverage


Because of Quail Hollow’s length – roughly 7,600 yards the first two days – and a new set of Bermuda grass greens that McIlroy opined automatically made the layout at least two strokes more difficult than when it usually hosts the Wells Fargo Championship in May, Kisner figured he had four legitimate birdie holes – Nos. 7, 8, 14 and 15.

“Those are my holes to score well. If I play them 3 under in the next two days, take that,” he said with a dash of southern simplicity.

On Thursday he added birdies at Nos. 6 and 18, to take a share of the Day 1 lead; and on Friday he made an eagle at the par-5 seventh.

But lack of length is not what makes Kisner the ultimate statistical outlier this week; although it’s worth pointing out he’s had five drives of 300 yards or more thus far.

Where the son of Aiken, S.C., broke the mold is what he’s done with an iron (normally of the mid- to long-iron variety) in his hand. Kisner leads the field in greens in regulation, going 30-for-36 through two rounds, despite having an average approach shot of 186 yards.

“It speaks to how well he’s hitting it,” figured Kisner’s swing coach, John Tillery.

At least part of that proficiency is a credit to Kisner’s driving accuracy – 21 of 28 fairways hit – but mostly it’s been his ability to temper an admittedly aggressive instinct.

“We talked about it and there are holes where he needs to aim away from the flag when he’s got a 6-iron in his hand,” Tillery said. “It used to just drive him crazy to do that, but it’s been a big attitude change at the majors.”

There will be those who will wonder if Kisner has the staying power to finish off a major, even after such a strong start. In 11 previous major appearances his best finish is a tie for 18th at the 2016 PGA, a run of events that includes a tie for 58th earlier this year at the U.S. Open.

But it was at Erin Hills where the seeds of his new subtle approach took hold. It was following a third-round 76 that Tillery and Kisner’s caddie, Duane “Dewey” Bock, addressed what could best be described as competitive overzealousness.

“We talked about his mind set, he was in good form but wasn’t playing well,” Tillery said. “If anything he tends to be too aggressive, so a course like [Quail Hollow] forces him to dial it back.”

For Kisner, that means picking your birdie holes and avoiding the kind of miscues that separate majors from your run-of-the-mill events, even if that means aiming 30 feet away from the hole.

There’s also something to be said for Kisner’s ability at overcoming the obvious at Quail Hollow. This is where bombers come to play, nearly 4 and ½ miles of winding rough and rugged edges, particularly after a wet summer.

Kisner could have lamented his fate, grumbled about course set up and 524-yard par 4s, but instead he devised a plan and for two days has executed that blueprint to perfection.

“In years past, he probably would have been that way and we wouldn’t be in the spot we’re in,” Tillery said. “He’s matured a ton.”

Call it maturity, call it a major mentality, for Kisner he knows this is the way you win major championships and after a lifetime of professional trial and error he’s ready to take that next step.

“I've been upset with how I've played in the majors so far in my career. I feel like I have the game to compete in majors and tons of 30th- to 40th-, 50th-place finishes,” he said. “That's kind of been our goal for the year. We haven't played well in them yet this year but every year you learn more about the majors and how to approach them.”

After two days we’ve all learned, thanks to Kisner’s performance, that what we thought we knew about statistics can be wildly misleading.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking 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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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.