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.

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M. Jutanugarn finally joins sister in LPGA winner's circle

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 1:42 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn won the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open by two shots for her first victory in six years on the LPGA Tour, joining sister Ariya as the second siblings to win on the tour.

The 23-year-old from Thailand shot a 3-under 68 for a 12-under 272 total Sunday at Wilshire Country Club in the tour's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Jutanugarn won in her 156th start after three career runner-up finishes, including at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. She had 21 top-10 finishes before winning.

Seven-time winner Ariya tied for 24th after a 70. She joined the predominantly Asian crowd to follow her older sister's final holes, crying as Moriya two-putted to close out the win.

Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first sisters to win on the LPGA Tour.

Hall of Famer Inbee Park shot a 68 to tie for second with Jin Young Ko (70).

Park had opportunities, but she wasn't able to put pressure on Jutanugarn playing in the final threesome. However, Park will return to No. 1 in the world when the rankings come out Monday, knocking off top-ranked Shenshen Fang, who tied for 12th.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


Jutanugarn began the final round with a two-shot lead and never wavered in fulfilling the potential she first displayed as the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2013. After a birdie at the second hole, she reeled off nine consecutive pars before sinking birdie putts at 12 and 13.

She overcame a tee shot that narrowly missed going out of bounds for another birdie at 15 to lead by three.

Jutanugarn ran into trouble on the par-4 16th. Her approach landed on the green and rolled off it, stopping inches from dropping into a bunker. Her chip shot ran well past the hole and her par putt just missed catching the edge of the cup. That left her with a short putt for bogey, her first in her previous 28 holes, trimming her lead to two shots.

Ko's tee shot on 18 landed about 4 feet from the hole, giving her a chance to cut Jutanugarn's lead to one shot with the Thai facing a long birdie attempt.

But Ko missed, leaving Jutanugarn room to maneuver. Her birdie putt came up a couple feet short, but she calmly parred the hole to win. Ariya rushed onto the green and joined others in emptying water bottles on her sister before they embraced.

So Yeon Ryu (68) finished fourth at 7 under. American Emma Talley (67) and Eun-Hee Ji (71) tied for fifth at 6 under, making Ji one of four South Koreans to place in the top five.

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After Further Review: Tour players embracing new ideas

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 1:26 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On players embracing new ideas on the PGA Tour ...

PGA Tour players are trying to tell commissioner Jay Monahan something: They like new.

In the second year of the two-man team format at the Zurich Classic, 10 of the top 14 players in the world have signed up, including all four reigning major champions. It’s the first time all four have been in the same field since the Tour Championship. If the laid-back event offered world-ranking points – it doesn’t, and that’s part of the appeal – the winner would have received 62 points. That’s the same as the Genesis Open.

Sure, some sponsor obligations are involved in boosting the field here, but there’s no other way to look at this: Today’s PGA Tour players are not only willing to play events that are a departure from the 72-hole, stroke-play norm. They’re encouraging it. - Ryan Lavner


On Moriya Jutanugarn's breakthrough win ...

As much love as there is between the Jutanugarn sisters, it couldn’t have been easy for Moriya, watching her baby sister, Ariya, soar past her as one of the LPGA’s dominant stars the last few years. Mo, though, never betrayed an inkling of frustration or envy.

That’s what made Mo’s breakthrough LPGA victory Sunday at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open especially meaningful for everyone who has admired Mo’s devotion to her sister. Mo was always a fixture, waiting in the wings to celebrate whenever Ariya hoisted a trophy.

So emotions were high late Sunday, with Ariya waiting in the wings this time, with Ariya sobbing in Mo’s arms after the victory was secured. It was heartwarming for more than Apple, the mother who raised these talented, loving sisters. As always, Apple was there, too, soaking both her daughters in tears of joy. – Randall Mell


On the tough scheduling decisions facing the PGA Tour ...

According to multiple sources, officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation on Monday.

While this is good news for the folks in Fort Worth, Texas, who were in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of timing, there remain some tough decisions to be made in the next few weeks.

If the PGA Tour’s plan is to end its season before Labor Day beginning in 2019, something must give. Currently, the Houston Open, a staple on Tour since 1946, and The National are without sponsors. When the music stops in a few weeks and the circuit announces the ’19 schedule, there’s a good chance one, or both, of those events will be the victims of bad timing. – Rex Hoggard

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Triplett hole-out wins Legends of Golf playoff

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 12:12 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Kirk Triplett holed out from a bunker for birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf to lift himself and partner Paul Broadhurst past Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman.

''Well, you're trying to make it, but you know realistically it doesn't go in very often,'' Triplett said. ''You're trying to give your partner a free run at it. You don't want to hit it up there 20 feet past or do something silly. I'm just trying to hit it the right distance and get it on the right line.''

Langer and Lehman took it in stride.

''You kind of learn to expect it,'' Lehman said. ''These guys out here are so good and Kirk Triplett is a magician around the greens. The odds of making that shot are probably not good, but you certainly expect him to hit a great shot and he did and it went in.''

Lehman and Langer missed birdie putts after Triplett holed out.

''I kind of felt like we both hit pretty good putts, misread them, both of them,'' Lehman said. ''I hit mine probably too hard and Bernhard's was too soft, but you have to hand it to the guys who hit the shot when they have to hit it.''


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


Broadhurst and Triplett closed with a 6-under 48 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to match Langer and Lehman at 24 under. Langer and Lehman had a 47, playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

The 56-year-old Triplett won his sixth PGA Tour Champions title.

''That's a big roller-coaster - three good shots and mine, right?'' Triplett said. ''I'm feeling a little dejected walking down that fairway there, a little sheepish. To knock it in it just reminds you, this game, you know, crazy stuff.''

Broadhurst claimed his third senior victory.

''I don't get too emotional, but that was something special,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said.

Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal had a 48 to tie for third with 2017 winners Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco. Singh and Franco, the third-round leaders, shot 50.

Mark Calcavecchia-Woody Austin (48), John Daly-Michael Allen (49), Steve Stricker-Jerry Kelly (50) and David Toms-Steve Flesch (52) tied for fifth at 20 under.

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Mullinax (T-2) comes up short of maiden win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:06 am

The Valero Texas Open saw an unheralded player break through to earn a maiden victory, but unfortunately for Trey Mullinax his day will have to wait.

Mullinax started the final round within a shot of the lead, having fired a course-record 62 during the final round. He trailed Andrew Landry by one shot for much of the final round while racking up six birdies over his first 11 holes, but a pair of late miscues meant the former Alabama standout had to settle for a share of second place, two shots behind Landry.

A final-round 69 marked a career-best finish for Mullinax, who is playing this season on conditional status and whose lone prior top-10 this season came after he Monday qualified for the Valspar Championship.

"I know my game's there, I'm playing really well," Mullinax told reporters. "Give all credit to Andrew, he played really well today, rocksteady. He was putting great, hitting great shots."


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Given time to reflect, the 26-year-old will likely look back on the final two holes where nerves appeared to get the best of him. Looking to put some pressure on Landry, Mullinax chunked his pitch on the short 17th hole into a greenside bunker, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.

Then Mullinax was unable to convert a 9-foot birdie putt on the final green, which would have forced Landry to make his 8-foot par putt to avoid a playoff. Afforded the luxury of two putts for the win, Landry rolled in his par save to cement a two-shot win.

"Made a bad bogey on 17, but just you've got to hit some bad shots," Mullinax said. "Would have liked to have got the putt on 18 to fall to put a little bit of heat on him, but this experience that I'm gaining right now is just going to help me down the road."