Aiken's Kisner not your average Masters rookie

By Rex HoggardApril 4, 2016, 2:40 pm

Most days start the same at Palmetto Golf Club.

Scott Brown will arrive at the rolling layout’s modest practice tee just after sunrise. He’s a grinder – searching for answers in the rust-colored South Carolina clay.

“Scott’s always been like that, from 8 to 5 [p.m.] he’s out working,” says Brooks Blackburn, Palmetto’s head professional. “Kiz is a player, he wants to play golf.”

“Kiz” is Kevin Kisner – Aiken, S.C., native, Palmetto member and one of this week’s most unique Masters’ rookies.

After a PGA Tour season filled with near misses that included three runner-up finishes in 2015, Kisner pulled off his breakthrough last fall by winning the RSM Classic. The two-year exemption, 500 FedEx Cup points and $1.02 million in earnings were nice, but it was the invitation to play his first Masters that left Kisner speechless following his six-stroke victory last fall at Sea Island Resort.

“Growing up in Aiken that’s all we ever knew,” says Kisner of his hometown that is roughly 30 minutes north of Augusta National. “Our whole city revolved around Masters week. Our town opens our doors to everyone.”

Downtown Aiken appears plucked from the set of the Andy Griffith Show. Tree-lined streets, country stores, historic churches and a golf course that is considered by some Augusta National without the green grass.

Dr. Alister MacKenzie designed the layout in 1932 just after completing Augusta National and some of the excess materials from the National were used at Palmetto, which features virtually the same rolling terrain.

For those who grow up in the shadow of Augusta National the Masters is part of the fabric of the community.

Kisner first attended the Masters when he was 6 years old and remembers walking with Greg Norman during the third round in 1996. The next day, after church, he watched the Australian’s fateful collapse on TV, because that’s what “locals” do.

The 32-year-old played Augusta National several times while at the University of Georgia and has made five scouting trips to the club since qualifying last fall.

“Don’t want to wear out my welcome,” he smiles.

Not that he needs to actually be on property to prepare for the year’s first major, not with Palmetto’s hard, rolling greens providing arguably the best facsimile to Augusta National’s iconic putting surfaces.

“I had to learn at an early age to get it in the hole because you’re not going to hit many greens at Palmetto,” Kisner says. “Where it helps a lot is the 6- to 8-foot putts that break a lot because we get a lot of that on Tour.”

Kisner also has a built-in practice round partner in Brown, a Tour winner who figures he’s been competing against his Palmetto stable mate since they were 9 years old.

Scott Brown won the 2013 Puerto Rico Open (Getty Images)

When the two aren’t on Tour they can be found at Palmetto, tooling around the course, working on their short game and, well ... making some noise.

Kisner is currently renovating a house he purchased adjacent to Palmetto’s 17th fairway and Brown lives just left of the third fairway on the other side of Whiskey Road.

Brown will arrive first, driving his customized golf cart through a maintenance gate to start his warm up.

“Brownie is there a lot longer than me. He likes to grind, so I don’t even have to text him if he’s home. I just show up,” says Kisner, who has his own matching golf cart complete with an impressive stereo system. “Never a doubt.”

Kisner says most days the tandem will play 36 holes in about five hours, but rarely against each other.

After decades of going head-to-head, they normally don’t have a game or are teamed against two other players.

“We’ve been battling against each other our whole lives,” Brown says. “It’s always been a heated rivalry. We try to beat each other, but we enjoy playing with each other. We’re undefeated as a team. I told him if they paired us in the Ryder Cup we could guarantee three points.”

Many of the players Kisner and Brown grew up competing against in amateur and high school are members at Palmetto and, Blackburn explains, Brown spends much of his time giving members impromptu lessons both on and off the golf course.

While the idea of playing a pair of Tour winners would seem outlandish, if not intimidating, to most recreational golfers, Blackburn says that Palmetto’s members have become accustomed to regular games against Kisner and Brown.

“Obviously [handicap] shots are flying, when it’s regular members and their buddies. It’s not free,” Blackburn says.

The bigger issue for most who find themselves paired with Kisner and Brown is the music that is always coming from the duo’s golf cart.

By most accounts, Kisner’s musical tastes are an eclectic combination of country and hip-hop BBQ, which Brown describes as old school rap.

“It depends on how many beers we’ve had. It goes all over the place. There could be some rap in there, country,” Kisner says. “Brownie is an unbelievable singer and if you ride around with him all day it’s like riding around with a country music star.”

Blackburn says most members enjoy the duo’s melodic exploits on the golf course, but there are times when volume control becomes an issue.

“It sometimes gets a little loud, and you have to tell them, ‘Boys, turn it down,’” Blackburn says. “But it’s cool to see Tour guys at your course and the members have embraced them.”

Kisner and Brown were given honorary memberships last December at a celebration that included Aiken’s mayor and members of the state legislature.

Blackburn says that pride will only grow next week when one of their own becomes just the second Aiken native – the first was amateur Bobby Knowles in 1951 – to play the Masters.

It’s those expectations – not the famed drive down Magnolia Lane or his first tee shot – that Kisner says he’s looking forward to the most.

“I want to get into contention,” he says. “I want to be making those roars on the weekend coming down the stretch. For once the crowd would be in my favor playing with one of the big-named players.”

After years of watching him develop, Palmetto’s faithful will easily be able to recognize “Kiz” this week. The only thing missing will be that customized golf cart and the familiar thump of some hip-hop BBQ song wafting through the pines.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.