Kisner ready for breakthrough

Kevin Kisner took a bit longer than current young guns Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth to figure things out.

Kisner, 31, seems to have it now.

“I’ve always won every level I’ve played at, I’ve always been good under the gun,” said Kisner, who will bid again for his first PGA Tour victory this week in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. “If I believe in myself and I know what I’m doing, I know I can do it.

“I think all that hard work … I’m starting to see some pretty good things, and hopefully we’re just scratching the surface on where we’re going to go, and you’ll see my name up there every week.”

Kisner certainly has been there in recent weeks, losing out in playoffs to Jim Furyk in the RBC Heritage after closing with a 7-under-par 64, and to Rickie Fowler in the Players Championship after finishing with a 3-under 69.

For a few precious seconds, it appeared he would win the Players in regulation in his first appearance at TPC Sawgrass, but his 10-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole slid over the edge of the cup.

Kisner, along with CBS analyst Johnny Miller who was calling it from the television booth, thought it was going in before it rolled agonizingly past the hole.

“I already called it in my head probably,” said Kisner, one of several Georgia Bulldogs making noise on the PGA Tour. “Two feet out I said, ‘That’s center cut.’ I just watched Chris (Kirk) putt on almost the same line, and his ball was going straight to the hole and broke hard left at the end.

“I knew with mine the speed and the line; I thought it was dead center. I don’t know if it hit anything. I couldn’t tell. But that’s such a good putt to hit coming down the stretch, probably 10 feet breaking a cup right to left … perfect speed and hit a great putt, so I’ll remember that one when I need to make another one.”

Fowler and Kisner were still even after the three-hole aggregate playoff, with Sergio Garcia dropping out because he was one shot behind.

The remaining duo went back to No. 17 and its infamous island green for the first sudden-death hole. Fowler knew he needed something special to shake off Kisner, and he got it with a shot to within 5 feet, setting up the winning birdie.

“I knew ‘Kiz’ was going to hit a good shot,” Fowler said of his mindset. “He made a great swing in there, he’s been swinging it great. And he hit a good shot. He got a little bit of a tough break when it landed on the down slope and kicked forward.

“I knew he was going to have a chance to make that putt (which he missed); he’s been rolling it good. He’s been playing very well.”

Kisner has won six times as a pro, including the 2010 Mylan Classic and the 2013 Chile Classic on what is now the Tour, plus four times on mini-tours.

However, after earning his PGA Tour card in 2010 and 2011, he had to return to the circuit’s Triple-A circuit in 2012, but things turned around since he hooked up with swing coach John Tillery a year and a half ago.

“I told John to give me the right stuff to get in position to win, because I’m pretty good when I’m in contention,” said Kisner, who also tied for fourth in the McGladrey Classic early this season by posting four rounds in the 60s.

“If you’ve watched my career, I’ve progressed. Each year I’m more comfortable, and each year has gotten a little better. Now I’m in a place where I can win. … I know I can win.”

Fowler was in a similar situation. He had only one victory on the PGA Tour and was voted one the most overrated players on the circuit by his peers in a recent poll before proving his detractors wrong by winning the Players.

Even though Kisner hasn’t won yet on the best tour in the world, he has learned enough to knows what it takes.

“The more you’re in that position, the better off you’re going to be, obviously,” said Kisner, who was up to No. 66 in the World Golf Rankings last week after ending 2014 at No. 236. “More, it’s just I know this situation, I know what I need to do.”

No matter that it took him awhile to realize it.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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