Kisner not afraid of tough test at PGA

By Ryan LavnerAugust 13, 2017, 2:02 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Back down against Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day, two of the best in the world, on the biggest stage he’s ever played?

No, Kevin Kisner wasn’t about to do that.

He hasn’t folded in 15 years.

The slight country boy from Aiken, S.C., was a freshman on the stacked Georgia golf team in 2002 when he sauntered onto the range one afternoon. Kisner wanted to take a few swings, so he snagged some balls from Ryan Hybl, the Bulldogs’ team leader, who was in the next stall.

After plowing through half of the shag bag, Kisner was satisfied with his session and turned to leave.

“Hey, go get me some more balls!” Hybl barked.

Kisner stood his ground.

“Nah, I ain’t about to get you no balls.”

Hybl, whose brother played quarterback at the University of Oklahoma, tackled Kisner, flipped him over and pinned him to the ground.

“Listen you little son of a b----,” Hybl said, leaning in close. “You’re gonna go get me some more balls.”

Kisner begrudgingly grabbed another bag. It was one of the few times in his life that he conceded defeat.


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Georgia coach Chris Haack was reminded of this story Saturday night, after Kisner stared down Matsuyama and Day, showed his big-game chops and took a one-shot lead into the final round of the 99th PGA Championship. At 7-under 206, Kisner is one clear of Matsuyama and Chris Stroud.

Kisner has been unapologetically confident ever since he was a junior player. It’s one of the main reasons Haack recruited him.

“He exudes confidence,” Haack said. “He doesn’t feel like anyone can beat him if he’s on. He feels like he can beat anybody and he’s always had that attitude. Whether he can or not, if you have that attitude, it always helps you.”

To many fans at Quail Hollow, Kisner was the third wheel Saturday with Matsuyama and Day.

Kisner doesn’t hit it miles off the tee. He doesn’t hit towering iron shots. He doesn’t have a dazzling short game. But what he lacks in pop he makes up for in a self-assuredness that borders on cockiness.

Georgia has produced the most successful pros over the past decade, and Haack points to his policy of forcing his players to qualify for every event. The message is simple: Nothing is given. Tee times are earned.

Kisner was one of three players (along with Brian Harman and Russell Henley) who never missed a tournament in four years – even during his junior season, when he endured a miserable slump. That spring, in the SEC Championship, Kisner was blown off the course and shot 93 at Sea Island. (Haack believes it’s the one and only time one of his players shot in the 90s.) For an hour afterward, Kisner grinded on the range, looking for answers.

“I’m closer,” he’d tell Haack. “I’m closer.”

The next day, Kisner got up and down from everywhere and shot 73 – a 20-stroke improvement.

“It was probably the greatest 73 I’ve ever seen,” Haack said. “It should have been an 85.”

With the NCAA Championship on the horizon, Haack contemplated making a lineup change. But rather than crush Kisner’s confidence, Haack kept him in the starting five, and Kisner rewarded his coach’s faith with an opening 65 that propelled the Bulldogs to the NCAA title. He became Haack’s first four-time All-American.

Still, there was some question whether Kisner's game (and his below-average length) would translate to the PGA Tour.

Not anymore. 

After an unspectacular start to his career, Kisner has developed a reputation as a big-game hunter. During the 2014-15 season, he forced (and lost) three playoffs, none more dramatic than The Players, where he came within a millimeter of capturing one of the biggest titles in golf. He finally broke through at the end of that year, at Sea Island (no 93 this time), and then added another title this spring at Colonial.

“When he gets in big situations, he doesn’t feel like, What am I doing here?” Haack said. “He thinks, I belong here.”

And Saturday was his biggest situation yet – a share of the 36-hole lead at Quail Hollow, which was supposed to be, at 7,600 yards, a bomber’s paradise where Kisner had no chance. Instead, he went bogey-free for 24 consecutive holes between the second and third rounds and built a three-shot advantage on the back nine Saturday.

That’s when he made things interesting.

On 16, in thick rough left of the fairway, Kisner yanked his tee shot into the pond, leading to a double bogey. A bigger mistake, though, was trying to launch a 7-iron over the false front on the final green. He overcooked it, and his ball caromed off a walkway and into a horrific, downhill, downgrain lie. His only option was to hack out 60 feet past the flag and two-putt for bogey.

Watching back home in Athens, Haack noticed how Kisner didn’t slam a club or mutter an F-bomb down the stretch, even when the bogeys piled up. His confidence never wavered.

“That’s one of his strengths,” Haack said. “He’s cold-blooded. He’s a silent assassin.”

Indeed, in difficult conditions, Kisner clipped Matsuyama (73) by one shot and topped Day (77) by five.

If nothing else, he once again showed his peers that he won’t back down Sunday.

“He’s had to prove himself all along the way,” said his caddie, Duane Bock. “There’s not a chip on his shoulder or anything like that. But he believes when he’s swinging well and putting well, he’s as good as anybody.

“So why be scared? That’s his mentality, and that’s what he does.”

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.