Kevin Kisner is getting used to this wild Hawaii weather – or at least as used to it as anyone can get.
As winds gusted for the third straight day at the Sony Open, Kisner flew up the leaderboard on the strength of a Saturday round of 6-under 64, the low round of the week so far at Waialae.
Whipping winds and heavy rains likewise played a prominent role at last week’s Tournament of Champions, where Kisner fought his way to a tie for 14th on a track that wasn’t wasn’t exactly playing into his hands.
“Yeah, the golf course last week wasn't conducive for anybody that drives it 275. There are very few left that are on this tour,” said Kisner, who went to refer to himself and Matt Kuchar as members of the PGA Tour’s B-flight.
Nonetheless, last week at Maui appears to have given Kisner a leg up on most of his competition.
“I think that's the biggest key to the whole week, seeing how the golf ball was flying last week, not coming fresh off the couch and Christmas break and trying to play in these conditions,” he said. “So I told my caddie that we're going to be more prepared than most of the guys.”
Kisner’s only dropped shot Saturday came at the second hole. From there, he played his final 16 holes with mistake-free, with seven birdies.
So what finally clicked after opening rounds of 69-69?
“I think made more putts than I have the first two days,” Kisner answered.
Indeed, his 117 feet worth of putts holed on Saturday surpassed his combined total of just 94 feet the first two days. He holed four putts of 20 feet or more, including a 48-footer for birdie at the third. Combine that with his ball-striking numbers – he leads the field in strokes gained: tee to green and is second in strokes gained: approach – and you’ll shoot a low number in any conditions.
“I’ve been striking it's great to give myself a ton of opportunities, and I just haven’t made the putts I normally make,” he said. “I’m probably do better in ball-striking stats than ever and worse in putting stats. But they all kind of come to the middle at some point, and I was glad to see the putting improve today.”
A three-time PGA Tour winner, Kisner most recently took last year’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a 3-and-2 win over the aforementioned Kuchar. He’ll enter Sunday’s final round four shots back, but with only two men, Brendan Steele and Cameron Smith, ahead of him. Should they get off to a slow start or falter early, there’s a good chance it’ll be Kisner pushing them. Over the last five years, no one has fired more rounds of 64 or better at the Sony than Kisner, with four. He referred to Waialae on Saturday one of the few courses left on Tour that fits his eye and that he likes to play.
“I got to be able to make some hay when the sun tends to shine, so I feel like I’ve got to go after it,” he put it. “It's a shorter, ball-strikers' paradise.”
As for what kind of attitude he’ll take into the final round, Kisner sees it being business as usual.
“Probably the same old, redneck, pretty-aggressive guy that I normally am,” he (not-really) joked. “I’m going to try to make birdie on every hole, the way I always have. Sometimes it’s to a victory and sometimes it’s not.”