Hogan would have approved of Kisner

By Rex HoggardMay 28, 2017, 11:44 pm

“When I practiced, I practiced to get it right.” - Ben Hogan

FORT WORTH, Texas – Just the other side of the Fort Worth railhead at Shady Oaks Country Club, that famously truncated notion from the Hawk is engraved on a plaque under the famous tree where Hogan would spend hours looking for answers.

It gives some insight into why Hogan was the Hawk, a perfectionist with a singular focus to hone an action, the golf swing, that defies such lofty ideals.

It also provides an interesting comparison to Kevin Kisner’s Sunday display at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational. Although Kisner would never be confused for Hogan – and, in truth, he doesn’t have much interest in such historical things – but his final-round performance was something straight out of “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” Hogan’s seminal take on the golf swing.

At Hogan’s Alley – one of three similarly named places, actually – Kisner was first in the field in fairways hit (40 of 56) and second in greens hit in regulation (53 of 72) on his way to a 10-under 270 total and a one-stroke victory over defending champion Jordan Spieth, Sunday staple Jon Rahm and Sean O’Hair.

But beyond his tee-to-green play what was truly Hogan-esque was Kisner’s dogged attitude at Colonial.

After starting the day three strokes behind 54-hole front-runner Webb Simpson, Kisner made the turn at 7 under, two strokes clear on an increasingly crowded leaderboard.

“At the turn I was handing him a new golf ball and he said, ‘Give me one that will go 5 under,’” said Kisner’s caddie, Duane "Dewey" Bock.

Kisner would manage only a 3-under closing loop, but it turned out to be enough for his second PGA Tour victory.

Dean & DeLuca Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

It was a torrid stretch of three consecutive birdies at Nos. 10-12, a run that included 55 feet of made putts, that moved Kisner into the lead. Despite a bogey at the 16th hole when his tee shot ran past the flag and into the fringe, the 33-year-old salvaged a par from the collection area behind the 18th green for victory.

Earlier in the week Kisner was asked where Colonial ranks on his list of favorite courses on Tour.

“Top 5, if not the best,” he said. “I love Hilton Head just because it's a home game pretty much, but this is just like what I grew up on. Tight, small greens. You got to fit it in windows of not a lot of long irons into holes, which we've become accustomed to on the PGA Tour.”

But don’t confuse affinity for comfort. Asked if he’s uncomfortable on any shots, he quickly explained, “Oh, there is tons. [No. 13] nobody wants to hit that shot where that pin is and into the wind. You know, 5, nobody likes that hole either, but it's just a great hole.”

While most of the Tour frat brothers like courses that fit their eye or games, for Kisner it’s the unique challenge of Colonial that makes it stand out from the parade of sprawling ballparks the circuit normally visits.

Similarly, it was the situation, almost as much as the result, which made Sunday at Colonial worthwhile for Kisner. A player who can admittedly become complacent if a title isn’t on the line, he thrives in situations like the final round in Texas.

Throughout the closing nine, three players loomed within a shot of the lead, with Spieth blinking first with a missed 12-footer for birdie at the 17th hole.

The biggest challenge, and perhaps incentive, was Rahm, who was paired with Kisner on Day 4. The first-year Tour player played Colonial his way, which is with a driver and no small amount of bravado, and pulled to within a shot of the lead with a 6-footer for birdie at the 17th hole.

But the Spaniard, who now has seven top-10 finishes this season in just 14 starts, failed to convert from 12 feet at the last for a birdie that would have forced overtime.

It was the kind of head-to-head duel with an undisputed heavyweight that seems to bring out the best in Kisner.

“He's a little bit of a bulldog. Kind of reminds me of Corey Pavin a little bit. A little bit of a chip on his shoulder seems like,” said Steve Stricker, who was paired with Kisner for Rounds 1 and 2 this week and will captain this year’s U.S. Presidents Cup team.

Where the Hogan comparison splits with Kisner was clear on the 18th green, when he calmly rolled in the game-winner from 5 feet for par. The champion would finish the week third in strokes gained: putting. The Hawk famously dismissed the importance of putting in golf, but the practice comparison remains.

“Our whole motto has been that we know what we need to do to get better, so every day we have to do our job and only our job. Any detours make us worse,” said Kisner’s swing coach, John Tillery. “A detour is a day we didn't get better. So, no experiments, no excuses, no, ‘What about if I tried this or felt that?’ Do your crap and go home. Period.”

Hogan would like that.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”