Kisner walks fine line between confident and cocky

By Rex HoggardMay 13, 2015, 6:02 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There’s a fine line between confident and cocky.

One man’s windbag is another’s winner; the trick is always remaining balanced in the razor-thin area between the two. It’s a road that Kevin Kisner has deftly navigated since he first picked up a club at storied Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, S.C.

“He’s never been afraid of anything. When you have abilities like he has there’s no reason not to be confident,” said Tom Moore, the pro emeritus at Palmetto.

Along the way Kisner – dubbed “Kiz” by those closest to him – has never lost that edge. Not at the University of Georgia where he was a four-time All-American, not through a languid transition to the professional game, and certainly not on Sunday at The Players.

On the eve of the final round last week at TPC Sawgrass, Kisner was asked how he would deal with the pressure of competing for his first PGA Tour title on such a large stage. His answer was everything you need to know about the fourth-year Tour player.

“Everybody talks about pressure and nerves and all that, but we've been through it all. If we've gotten here, we've done Tour [Q-School], we've won tournaments,” reasoned Kisner, who was one shot behind 54-hole front-runner Chris Kirk at the time. “Just because it's a bigger stage doesn't mean we're going to suck all of a sudden.”

It’s why Georgia head golf coach Chris Haack was drawn to him, and young Kisner didn’t disappoint. During his freshman year in Athens, Ga., Kisner approached Ryan Hybl, a senior on the Bulldogs golf team, on the practice tee and started hitting out of the same shag bag.

“When the balls were all gone, Ryan told him, ‘Freshman, go get some more balls,’” Haack recalled. “Kiz was like, ‘I’m not getting anything.’”

The two ended up wrestling over the incident and the moment stands as a testament to Kisner’s competitiveness, although Haack was quick to point out how he evolved into the quintessential teammate.

During the 2005 SEC Championship, for example, Kisner was struggling with his game and began the week with a first-round 90, but Haack kept him in the lineup for the NCAA tournament because “He was always a good team guy,” he said.

Kisner helped lead the Bulldogs to the national title in ’05, rising to the pressure of the moment just as he did last week at TPC Sawgrass and in April at the RBC Heritage, where he lost to Jim Furyk in a playoff.

It’s all part of a unique “closer’s” mentality that made an average ball-striker such a dogged competitor. 

“Kiz was my camp counselor when I was 12 when I went up to Georgia for a PGA golf camp and I remember him telling me, ‘You can’t play golf scared,’” recalled Russell Henley, who followed Kisner to Georgia and later onto the Tour. “He’s tough.”

He’s also cut from a vastly different mold than many of his Tour frat brothers.

When Kisner is at home in Aiken he can normally be found tooling around in a custom golf cart complete with speakers and a Bluetooth connection, or wandering through the woods looking for something to hunt or hook.

After another playoff loss at The Players, thanks in large part to Rickie Fowler’s historic finish that included three birdies from inside 7 feet on the par-3 17th hole on Sunday, those with lesser fortitude would have needed a timeout. Instead, Kisner just needed time in the woods.

On Sunday, he drove to his brother-in-law’s hunting camp in Georgia, dubbed “Duck Bottom,” to hunt hogs. There was no self-indulgent lapses or counter-productive second-guessing because that simply wouldn’t be Kisner’s style.

“I’ve always wanted the ball in my hand coming down the stretch,” Kisner said on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship. “I felt like I’ve had it two out of the last three weeks.”

It was a similar message Kisner gave swing coach John Tillery a year and a half ago when the two first began working together.

“When he first showed up he just said, ‘Look, if you can get me to hit it where I can get in contention, I’m good when I’m in contention,’” recalled Tillery. “He felt that way when he didn’t have the results to show.”

The results, however, have arrived.

In 2013, Kisner ranked outside the top 100 in driving accuracy and strokes gained-tee to green. This season he’s 36th in accuracy off the tee and 50th in strokes gained-tee to green thanks to dramatically improved leg action and a much tighter swing that has eliminated the block that plagued him earlier in his career.

True to his word, Kisner has converted those technical improvements into tenacious finishes. At Harbour Town he rallied to catch Furyk with three birdies over his last five holes and added another on the first extra hole before losing in the second frame of overtime.

On Sunday at The Players, he was equally clutch with a birdie at the second playoff hole before Fowler closed him out at the fourth extra hole.

“One of these days I’m going to shoot 65 on Sunday and come up and somebody is going to hand it to me,” Kisner smiled on Wednesday.

Like objects in the rearview mirror, that future “Sunday” may be closer than it would appear. After another pedestrian West Coast swing – put bluntly, Kisner hates the West Coast – he has settled into a familiar early summer run, preceding his runner-up finishes with solid starts at Bay Hill and in San Antonio.

As he closes in on that elusive first victory Kisner’s legend grows, and not just the Twitter account created for his caddie Duane Bock’s massive calves. The confidence has always been there, and it seems just a matter of time before the championships follow.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”