A Confounding Course Feels Like Home to Kevin Kisner

It might just be that so close to home, he finally feels at home.

“I love to just go home and hang out with my buddies in the country,” Kisner, 33, said Friday. “Go out where there’s no cellphone service and spend the afternoon. Love to fish, love to shoot guns, love to hunt; just get away from it. That’s my favorite part.”

His hometown is the kind of place where Kisner can relax and have fun — sometimes too much. A year ago, according to published reports, he was suspended from his home course, Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, for racing golf carts — which he filmed in a video for Vice Sports called “Beer, Bets and Golf Cart Races.” He was allowed back a couple of weeks later, and even with the slap on the wrist, Kisner has remained fiercely loyal to everything about his home.

Beer, Bets, and Golf Cart Races: Kevin Kisner Preps for the Masters Video by VICE Sports

“I have a core group of friends that we hang out with that don’t pester me about golf, and we hang out and have a couple beers on the back porch,” he said.

His life on the golf course has enough stress. Since joining the PGA Tour in 2011, he has two victories, both since 2016. His average score has steadily improved this season, to 70.33 from 71.86, and he is currently ranked 25th.

Playing well in a major was not something that had happened, though. He has made the cut in eight of 12 majors, but his average finish is 31.5. This season, he tied for 43rd at the Masters, tied for 58th at the U.S. Open and tied for 54th at the British Open.

“I’ve been upset with how I’ve played in the majors so far in my career,” Kisner said. “I feel like I have the game to compete in majors — and tons of 30th- to 40th-, 50th-place finishes. That’s kind of been our goal for the year. We haven’t played well in them yet this year, but every year you learn more about the majors and how to approach them.”

So far at Quail Hollow, he is finally headed squarely toward that goal. He eagled the par-5, 546-yard No. 7 on Friday and birdied Nos. 10, 12 and 15. He hit fairways and learned how to play the firmer greens.

“Kis is on fire right now,” Rory McIlroy said, referring to Kisner.

Kisner posted his score after starting in the morning group, and the rest of the field spent the remainder of the day chasing after him while trying to outmaneuver stormy weather.

Twice, weather warning signs were posted, and at 4:43 p.m., competition was suspended because of lighting and an approaching downpour. Play resumed 1 hour 43 minutes later and was called for darkness at 8:11 p.m.

Matsuyama, of Japan, matched Kisner’s mark as the round wound down, logging seven birdies — four in a row on his back nine.

Jordan Spieth, in his quest to complete a career Grand Slam with a win here, finished the day at three over par and was teetering close to the projected cut line, five over.

Spieth had a disastrous 10th hole, driving into the pine straw right of the fairway on the par-5 592-yard hole, then striking the ball left of the fairway into pine straw again. He then hit a tree branch before landing just off the green. He escaped with a bogey.

“I kind of accept the fact that I’m essentially out of this tournament pending some form of crazy stuff the next couple of days,” Spieth said.

He was not the only player to struggle on the reconfigured course, which has been playing three to four strokes higher than previous years, when it hosted the Wells Fargo Championship.

“Look, it surprised me — this is not the Quail Hollow we have gotten to know over the last 10 years,” said McIlroy, who is two over after two days. “It’s a completely different course.”

Phil Mickelson finished the day at 11 over, well outside the mark for making the cut in his 100th major. Ernie Els, also playing in his 100th major, was on pace to miss the cut at eight over.

“A low round used to be a 61 or a 62,” McIlroy said. “A low round now is a 66 or a 67.”

That is just what Kisner has done through the first two rounds.

“I’m really fired up about the way I’m hitting the golf ball,” he said. “I haven’t hit it this well this whole summer.”

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