Kevin Kisner spent the past two years striving to prove he belonged on the PGA Tour. He felt frustrated at his failure to keep his spot in golf’s major league.
“I know I can play better,” he said of the past two seasons, “and I’m focused on getting back.”
He took a giant stride in that direction last weekend, winning the Web.com Tour’s Chile Open. The $117,000 first-place check boosted him to second on the money list, and earnings pave the way to next year’s PGA Tour.
Kisner, a former Georgia all-American who lives in his native Aiken, opened this season with a pair of missed cuts, which he attributed to off-season rust that spoiled his rhythm. But nine holes into his first practice round in Chile, he knew he had a chance to reverse his fortunes.
“Playing well is a progression, and the course fit my eye very well,” he said. “I found my tempo and everything came together.”
Doubts disappeared in his third round 11-under 61 that sent him into a tie for the lead. He capitalized with a 68 on Sunday that produced his second career Web.com Tour victory.
“Obviously, I had a great day Saturday,” Kisner said. “I played with a buddy and everything started to go in (the hole). I eagled the (par-5) 14th to get to 8-under for the day and started to think, ‘We can do something special.’ ”
He did. He birdied the final three holes for a career-best 61 that bettered the course record by three strokes.
Did 59 enter his thinking?
“No,” he said. “I knew I was running out of holes and you’re probably more likely to shoot 59 on a par-70 course. Thirteen under on a par 72 is a lot of birdies.”
Kisner posted his 61 with the leaders early in their rounds, and his 199 held up for a share of the lead. In Sunday’s final round, he broke in front with three front-nine birdies and won by a stroke.
“I set a number, in this case 22-under, for my goal, and I got there with a birdie on 13 and two par 5s left,” he said. “But I bogeyed 14 and it got a little shaky.”
But the challengers did not apply late-round pressure. Brice Garnett failed to birdie the 18th hole, allowing Kisner to lay up on the par 5 and clinch his victory with a safe par.
Kisner, who has a home adjacent to Palmetto Golf Club and hones his game on one of the state’s finest courses, reset his season goals after his victory. He wants to lead the Web.com Tour in earnings to avoid PGA Tour re-shuffles next year.
“The first year or two on the PGA Tour is a learning experience — about the courses, the new people, the cities — and at the same time you have to play (well) on the biggest stage in your profession,” he said. “You have to understand you’re at the top level of the game, and it’s a learning curve.
“But I know I can play better than I did (making 10 cuts in 24 starts each year) and I’m focused on getting back.”
The win also made the 10-hour flight from Santiago to Atlanta seem a lot shorter.
Winners in the Golfweek Amateur Tour tourney at the Woodlands: Josh Rogers (championship flight), Hiran Hicks (A flight), Russell Jones (B flight), Les Bradstreet (C flight) and Hal Parish (D flight). Players are placed in flights according to handicap indexes. For schedule and information, call John Livoti (866) 918-4653. ...
A fund-raiser to benefit South Carolina State’s band program will be April 29 at Fort Jackson Golf Club. For entry or sponsorship information, contact Lisa Stokes (803) 682-3379 or email@example.com, or Connie James (803) 447-3076 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ...
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