Kevin Kisner’s PGA Tour performance card headed into the heart of the season – three majors, a WGC tournament, the FedEx Cup playoffs and the President’s Cup between now and September – looks like this:
▪ One win, two seconds and five top 10s in 16 starts
▪ Arguably, the best shot of the year – his 72nd-hole chip in at dusk that forced a playoff in the Zurich Classic
▪ No. 4 in U.S. President’s Cup points, No. 7 in the FedEx standings and 22nd in the World Golf Rankings
His annual goals – East Lake, the pros’ code for the playing in the Tour Championship, and a berth on the year’s national team, the President’s Cup in 2017, are virtual locks.
Not a bad résumé for any player, especially one who this time four years ago seriously considered giving up his dreams of professional golf success.
“Three or four years ago (in the summer of 2013), I thought that if I continued to strike the ball the way I was then, I didn’t want to play anymore,” said Kisner, the Aiken native who left a trail of success in his wake through high school (South Aiken), junior and college golf (Georgia).
That low point came after he had won an early season Web.com Tour event that guaranteed his promotion back to the PGA Tour for the 2013-14 season. Even his short irons suffered from a case of the shanks.
Enter his association with teaching professional John Tillery. Exit his ball-striking woes. He followed a so-so 2013-14 with a burst into the golf world’s consciousness. Today, instructors and commentators marvel at his swing.
The turning point came in the 2015 RBC Heritage. He came into that tournament with five missed cuts and only one top-10 in 13 starts. But Tillery’s play-to-win charge finally struck a chord.
Since that day at Hilton Head, a playoff loss for the title to Jim Furyk despite making birdie on Harbour Town’s 18th hole both in regulation and the playoff, Kisner has become a fixture among the leaders in FedEx points and PGA Tour earnings. He won his second Tour title a week ago at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas.
“If you told me 10 years ago that in 2017, I’d have two wins and six seconds on the PGA Tour, I’d have taken it,” he said prior to playing in the Memorial Tournament this week. “… I love the direction my game is going. I love where my team is. I love where I am as a family man, as a person. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing to get better and have another great five or six years.”
Realistic for the 33-year-old who lives in his native Aiken with wife Brittany and daughter Kate?
“This game is a roller coaster,” he said. “I didn’t play that well in stretches last year and didn’t feel good about my game. But if you keep grinding, it’s going to come back.”
He finished 2016 “at East Lake,” 23rd in the standings, but missed his other goal, the Ryder Cup. Afterward, he took a month off and entered this year rested and brimming with confidence.
The idea from four years ago – giving up his dream – is far, far away.
The Sonic Columbia City Women’s Golf Championship and the South Carolina Junior Championship will be played this week at area courses. The women’s event is set for Tuesday and Wednesday at Fort Jackson GC’s Wildcat Course, and the SCGA Juniors will compete Tuesday-Thursday at Columbia CC. … Puggy Blackmon, who has helped USC’s women’s team gain national prominence, has been named assistant coach of the year by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association. … Clemson’s Doc Redman has been named to the Freshman All-America team by the College Golf Coaches Association of America. … Alice Chen and Taylor Totland, members of the Furman team that reached the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship tourney the past two years, captured the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball title at the Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach. … In the U.S. Men’s Four-Ball at Pinehurst, multi-time SCGA Player of the Year Todd White (Spartanburg) and partner Nathan Smith won twice before falling in the quarterfinals. … Mickey Plyler and Raymond Wooten defeated Bryce Howell and Connor Bruns 3 and 2 to win the SCGA Four-Ball title. … Grant Sellers (McBee) won the CGA’s Creed Junior Boys’ title at Camden CC. … The 36-hole Sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open will be held at 10 sites on Monday.