Finally, nobody beats the Kiz

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2015, 11:09 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – It was only apropos that Kevin Kisner’s island hoping ended on a blustery Sunday at the RSM Classic.

It was on another island just up the coast from this week’s stop, Hilton Head, where his near-miss madness began, a series of close calls that appeared to reach a crescendo earlier this month when he finished two strokes outside the winner’s circle at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Throughout it all he never wavered, never worried, never wondered if his time might never come. The way he figured it, the stars would align as long as he kept plodding along on the path he began two years ago with swing coach John Tillery.

When Jim Furyk beat him in a playoff at the RBC Heritage it was a sign his work was moving him in the right direction. When Rickie Fowler outdueled him in extra frames at The Players things appeared to have reached a new level, and when he closed with a 64 in July at the Greenbrier Classic but dropped another playoff to Danny Lee he maintained his resolve that an elusive first PGA Tour title was within reach.

But the WGC-HSBC Champions loss appeared to be a different animal after he began the final round with a share of the lead. Even the most self-confident player can succumb to the internal voices of doubt when faced with repeated negative feedback.

Not Kisner.

“I hadn't been in that position with that big of a lead. I was as jumpy or ready to go today,” said Kisner, who closed with weekend rounds of 64 at the RSM Classic for a tournament-record 22-under 260 total and a six-stroke victory.

“You know, only thing you can do is win or fail in that position. It’s hard to keep yourself not thinking what if it doesn't work out. So I just wanted to go out and make birdies early and try to keep playing the way I was playing.”

After The Players loss to Fowler, Kisner took solace in the notion that “one day I’m going to fall into one of these things,” but there was no such anti-climactic ending on Sunday.

After starting the final round three strokes clear of Kevin Chappell, Kisner birdied No. 2 from 6 feet, No. 4 from 10 feet, No. 5 from 15 feet, No. 8 from 7 feet and the ninth from 31 feet to turn with a touchdown advantage.

Kisner added an 8-foot par save at the par-5 seventh hole after finding the dunes with his second shot to total 83 feet of putts made for his first nine holes, nearly equaling his total for Saturday’s round.

There would be no cruise control, no playing defense after coming so close so many times this season. Kisner had watched enough players “win” tournaments this year to know better than to play not to lose.

“We were talking on the way home last night and he said, ‘It’s good I have that lead but I know how good these guys are,’” Tillery said. “He’d been here so many times and armored up with all those previous battles.”

Scar tissue can be a funny thing. While defeats are said to make one stronger there is always the possibility that continued failure can chip away at one’s confidence, but that was never an option for Kisner.

It never has been.

When Russell Henley was an 11-year-old attending the University of Georgia junior golf camp, Kisner, who was a freshman on the Bulldog team at the time, was his counselor.

“I remember him telling me, ‘You can’t play golf scared,’” Henley recalled. “I think ‘Kiz’ never has any regrets because he plays so aggressive all the time and just leaves everything out there.”

The best example of that was Kisner’s scrambling par at the seventh hole in the worst of the day’s winds. With Graeme McDowell, who was fresh off a victory last week in Mexico, sizing up a 14-foot birdie putt and the potential for a two-stroke swing, Kisner calmly converted from 8 feet for par.

Tillery, who has been working with Kisner for about two years and is credited with transforming the Tour’s most recent champion into a bona fide ball-striker, said it’s an example of Kisner’s “bulldog-ishness.”

Scott Brown sees that side of Kisner on a regular basis back home in Aiken, S.C., where the two have been friends since they first picked up a club.

“We’re undefeated playing together,” smiled Brown, who introduced Kisner to Tillery. “We’re always partners and always have each other’s back. He’s going to be a strong choice for the Ryder Cup and maybe they should just put me on that team to play with him. We’ll get you three points.”

Because of the revised points list for next year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team, Kisner won’t gain any ground to make the U.S. team for his victory at Sea Island, although he did vault to 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking, and RSM Classic host and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III admitted to taking “mental notes" this fall in preparation for next year’s matches.

Until Sunday at Sea Island Resort the defining moment of Kisner’s year may have come on the eve of the final round at The Players when he was asked if he would be intimidated heading out against the likes of Fowler on Sunday.

“If we've gotten here, we've done Tour [Q-School], we've won tournaments. Just because it's a bigger stage doesn't mean we're going to suck all of a sudden,” he said in his signature style.

If his weekend show on the Seaside Course was any indication, just because Kisner finally has that Tour trophy he’s waited so long for doesn’t mean he’s going to be appeased.

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Down seven pounds, Thomas can gain No. 1

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.

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Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 10:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’

“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”

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Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.

“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”

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Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

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By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.