PGA Championship 2017: Leader Kevin Kisner’s surgeon-like dissection of Quail Hollow reaps dividends

The way Kevin Kisner has dissected the Quail Hollow Club, he could well have been a surgeon and not a golfer. On a course long-hitting Brooks Koepka dubbed as a ‘Bomber’s Paradise’, on the eve of the 99th PGA Championship, it is Kisner, ranked 127th on driving distance, who is leading the field. And when he finished his second round with a second straight 67, he was a handy four shots clear of the field.

Mind you he is 15th in accuracy of the tee, and that often counts for more than distance. That’s also held him in good stead this week. It has also given him great results — one win, six top-10s and only three missed cut in 22 starts this season.

Kevin Kisner chips to the 14th green during the second round of the PGA Championship. AP

Kevin Kisner chips to the 14th green during the second round of the PGA Championship. AP

Yet, the 33-year-old Kisner’s record at the Majors is hardly the kinds, which would make heads turn. He has just two top-20s — the T-18 at last year’s PGA and T-12 at the 2015 US Open.
He has won twice on the PGA — once each in 2015 (RSM Classic) and 2017 (Dean & DeLuca). But what stands out most in his resume is that he has lost each of the play-offs he got into — three of them in 2015.

On Thursday after his first round 67, Kisner came to the media tent and revealed he had identified four birdie holes — the par-5 seventh, the short par-4 eighth, the par-4 14th and par-5 15th.

On Thursday, he birdied all four of them, besides sixth and 18th, but he also dropped shots on fifth and 13th. On Friday he came back with another 67, but this time he did not birdie all four. He eagled seventh and birdied 15th and parred the other two. He had two other birdies on 10th and 12th and a dropped shot on 13th. So, he is already seven-under for those holes and his total is 8-under. Talk of surgical precision.

He smiled and said, “Yeah, those are my holes to score well. If I play them 3-under in the next two days, take that.”

Kisner added, “The way I've kind of dissected it (Quail Hollow) is: The first five or six holes, if you can escape those, you can play the next eight and the last three (the 16th-17th-18th are called Green Mile) and hold on for dear life.”

He also feels at home at Quail Hollow, with which he has strong ties. “Well, I've had success at Quail before. I look forward to coming here. Obviously it's close to home and I love the greens. I just wasn't sure what they were going to do with the changes.

“So I came up a month ago and played, and 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. But it's been drying out and my tee balls are getting some roll and I'm hitting a lot less irons into the greens than I expected. If I can get a 6- or 7-iron in my hand, I like my chances around here.”

While Kisner was born in Aiken (South Carolina), about 145 miles from Charlotte, his parents grew up in Charlotte. He said, “I've spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas in Charlotte from childhood to marriage. Been here a ton. Got a lot of ties to Quail Hollow. Brother-in-law's father is a founding member here. He's still a member here. We spent a lot of time in Charlotte; my 93-year-old grandmother still lives here by herself.”

But he still loves Aiken and that’s where he stays, for as he added, “On the Aiken piece, when I was playing mini-tours and I was broke, that's the only place I could afford to buy a house and I went back there. I just love it."

A fierce competitor from a young age, when he would beat old boys and even men on putting greens, Kisner adds, “I've always played other sports throughout my life, and I've never been the biggest guy, so I had to find a way to get things done. That's why I play golf now because I was better than everybody else at golf. I like beating people and I like competing, and that's kind of how I was raised.”

Asked about his mantra on golf, he says he does not find any need to complicate things. “At the end of the day, it's just golf, right. I have to hit my tee ball where I'm trying to look, and if I don't, I have to find a way to get the ball in the hole the fastest. I think players spend too much work into figuring out golf courses, instead of just getting the ball in the hole. It's just a game then.”

Ah, just a game, then. But this is a Major, too, and he loves to compete and beat all others. He concludes, “We've seen a lot of low scores in Majors. There's been a lot of birdies. You've got to realize that guys are making birdies, and the whole mind-set of pars are good is kind of out the window. You have to be able to attack when you can, is my big deal in majors and you've got to be comfortable putting three and 4- and 5-footers for par on the holes that you can attack and I think that's a big deal in major championships.”

Simple, indeed.

Updated Date: Aug 12, 2017 17:14 PM

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