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.''

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”