RSM Classic 2015
Round 4 - Kevin Kisner seals first PGA Tour winNovember 23, 2015
Kevin Kisner, who did everything this year but win, suddenly felt as though he had everything to lose.
''Just chilling,'' he said Sunday on the practice range at Sea Island, only that wasn't necessarily the case.
Four times a runner-up this year when someone else simply played better, Kisner had a three-shot lead in the RSM Classic. Expectations were never higher. He battled to keep his mind off the prospects of ending the year with yet another close call.
''That was the hardest thing I had to deal with all day,'' he said. ''Only thing you can do is win or fail in that position. Hard to keep yourself from thinking, 'What if it doesn't work out?' So I just wanted to go out and make birdies early and try to keep playing the way I was playing.''
The golf was never easier.
He took only 11 putts on the front nine, five of them for birdie. He doubled his lead to six shots at the turn. And in the final round of the final tournament of the year, Kisner finally captured his first PGA Tour title with a 6-under 64 for a six-shot victory over Kevin Chappell.
''What a way to end the year, by far the greatest year of my life golf-wise,'' he said. ''To finish it that way, I couldn't write it up any better.''
So dominant was the 31-year-old from South Carolina that no one got closer than four shots after the second hole. He finished at 22-under 260, breaking the tournament record by four shots.
Kisner became the sixth first-time winner in the fall start to the PGA Tour season, only this was hardly a surprise.
Jim Furyk had to make two birdies to beat Kisner in a playoff at Hilton Head. Rickie Fowler had to go four holes and make two birdies on the island-green 17th at the TPC Sawgrass to beat him at The Players Championship. He closed with a 64 only to lose in a four-man playoff at The Greenbrier. Russell Knox had all four rounds in the 60s in the HSBC Champions two weeks ago in Shanghai.
No one came close to him at Sea Island.
''First time I think I've ever played with him,'' said Graeme McDowell, who closed with a 67 to finish third. ''Didn't realize just how steady he was. He played really aggressive today for a guy who has never won a golf tournament. I was thinking if I could get a couple under (par) early on that I might have some sort of a short. But he closed the door early on. And it was impressive.''
Kisner, who started the year at No. 236 in the world, moved up to No. 17.
''When he's shooting 128 (64-64) on the weekend, pretty tough to beat,'' Chappell said.
The highlight of the day was seeing 17-month-old daughter Kate running toward him when he tapped in for par on the 18th. Kisner scooped her up and said, ''We did it!''
Did he ever.
''I've just been playing so well all year,'' Kisner said. ''I knew one day it was going to happen when I was going to make all the putts. I did it on the front nine.''
If there was a turning point, it would have been on the par-5 seventh hole when Kisner's second shot landed in a native bush in the dunes short of the green. He chose to hammer it out of there and moved it about 5 feet, then chipped 8 feet by the hole. Graeme McDowell missed his 10-foot birdie putt and Kisner holed his for par. His lead stayed at four shots, and Kisner followed with a lob wedge to 8 feet for birdie on the next hole, and a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to go six clear.
The final three hours, if not the entire day, was a battle for second place.
McDowell, coming off a victory in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba last Monday in Mexico, lost out when his approach to the 16th buried so badly he had to clear away sand just to identify it. He swung as hard as he could, only for the ball to roll back into his foot print. He did well to make bogey, though Chappell made birdie on the hole for a two-shot swing that carried him to a 67 and the runner-up finish.
All that mattered to Kisner was keeping his distance. For all his second-place finishes, all he wanted was a big lead going to the final hole.
''Five strokes was pretty nice,'' he said.
Kisner goes into the six-week break atop the FedEx Cup standings and eager for his next chance. The victory allows him to start 2016 one week earlier in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua.
''You've got to feel like you belong or you'll get run over,'' Kisner said. ''That sense of belonging and having a chance to win changes your outlook on yourself and your game on the PGA Tour.''
Round 3 - Kevin Kisner moves three clearNovember 22, 2015
Kevin Kisner has a score in mind that he hopes will be enough to win the RSM Classic.
This time, everyone has to catch him.
The hard-luck player on the PGA Tour this year, Kisner pulled away Saturday afternoon with three shots that all led to birdies - a tough tee shot on the 16th, a 6-iron that nearly went in for an ace on the par-3 17th and a 30-foot putt on the 18th. That gave him a 6-under 64 and a three-shot lead over Kevin Chappell.
Already a runner-up four times this year - three of them in playoffs - Kisner has never had a better chance than now.
''What I've learned is you just can't hold back on this tour,'' Kisner said. ''Any time you think you're doing great, somebody else is, too. I'm just going to try to keep making birdies. I'll put a number of 20, 21 (under) in my head and see if they can catch that one.''
Closing with three straight birdies not only gave Kisner the lead, he set the 54-hole record at Sea Island at 16-under 196.
Kevin Chappell, tied for the lead when he made birdie on the par-5 15th, closed with three pars for a 68.
Graeme McDowell had a 65 - that's 64 strokes with his clubs and one mental blunder. McDowell has spent so much time in soggy conditions that allowed for preferred lies than when he got to his ball in the first fairway, he instinctively reached for a tee to mark his ball, picked up and quickly realized there was a problem.
Lift, clean and place was not allowed Saturday. That's a one-shot penalty.
''I literally just got into automatic pilot mode in the first fairway,'' he said. ''Before I realized that, Michael Kim is looking at me funny. I'm like, 'OK, I just picked this ball up.' What an idiot.''
And what a recovery.
He hit wedge into 10 feet and made the putt - for par, not birdie - which helped clear his head. McDowell made a few key par saves, poured in five birdies and wound up with a 65 to get within four shots of the lead. Coming off his playoff win in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba on Monday in Mexico, McDowell feels like's playing with house money.
''That would be special,'' he said of a chance to end his year with back-to-back wins.
Kisner really hasn't done much wrong in any of his close calls.
He was three shot behind going into the final round at Hilton Head, closed with a 64 to get into a playoff, birdied the first extra hole and lost on Jim Furyk's birdie on the second playoff hole. He was one behind at The Players Championship, closed with a 69 and matched Rickie Fowler shot-for-shot in the three-hole playoff. He just couldn't match Fowler's third birdie on the island-green 17th and lost in sudden death.
He was four behind at The Greenbrier, closed with a 64 and lost in a four-man playoff. And two weeks ago in Shanghai, he was tied for the lead with Russell Knox and closed with a 2-under 70 to finish two shots behind Knox.
What he gained in all those losses was a small measure of belief that he was doing most everything right, and that someone else simply was better.
This time, he is equipped with a lead and brings the experience of coping with nerves.
''Just getting more and more comfortable in that situation,'' Kisner said. ''In China I was feeling as good as ever in that position. Hopefully, that's how it is tomorrow. Hopefully, the weather is pretty good for us and I just keep playing the way I'm playing.''
Chappell, winless in his 142 previous starts on the PGA Tour, has been in weekend contention three times in the last four years at Sea Island, though he has slipped in the third round. He thought that might be the case again Saturday when he three-putted from 60 feet for bogey on the second hole, and then missed the green left on the par-3 third hole and missed a 10-foot par putt.
He steadied himself with five birdies the rest of the way and is in range of his first win.
''I couldn't be happier with the way I bounced back and handled a little adversity early in the round,'' Chappell said. ''Just really fought hard and tried to give myself as many opportunities as I could. Made some birdies, which was nice. Didn't play my way out of it, which looked like I could early in the round.''
Alex Cejka had his third straight 67 and at 11-under 201 was the only other player within five shots of Kisner.
Round 2 - Kevin Chappell edges aheadNovember 20, 2015
American Kevin Chappell holed out from a greenside bunker to eagle the par-five 15th on the way to claiming a one-stroke lead after the second round of the RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, Georgia on Friday.
One off the pace overnight, Chappell coped well with strengthening winds as he fired a five-under-par 65 on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club in pursuit of his maiden PGA Tour title.
The 29-year-old Californian also recorded four birdies and a lone bogey to post an 11-under total of 131, to stand one ahead of Swede Freddie Jacobson and American Kevin Kisner.
Jacobson carded a five-under 67 on the Plantation Course while Kisner, the overnight leader who is also bidding for a first victory on the PGA Tour, returned a three-under 67 on the Seaside layout.
American Kyle Stanley was alone in fourth at nine under after shooting a four-birdie 67 on the Seaside Course.
Chappell, who has twice been a runner-up on the PGA Tour, was elated with his eagle at the 15th after not benefiting from what he had viewed as a well-struck approach from the right rough.
"I thought I hit a pretty good second shot there," Chappell told Golf Channel. "The wind obviously knocked it down and I just told myself, 'Hit the bunker shot harder than you want to.'
"Obviously I hit it hard enough," he said with a grin about his hole-out from 45 yards. "The wind blew a lot harder today and we are very fortunate the course is in great shape.
"It's soft so it makes some of the fairways play wider than they are, so you can get away with some missed shots as long as you are playing the wind properly."
British Open champion Zach Johnson, the American world number 10 who is the highest-ranked player in the field, posted a second successive 70 to end the day right on the cut line, a distant nine strokes off the pace.
Also advancing to the weekend after carding consecutive 70s was tournament host and next year's United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III.
Round 1 - Kevin Kisner leads at Sea IslandNovember 20, 2015
Davis Love III and Davis Love IV did everything together Thursday at Sea Island.
They have the same pre-shot routine, a full practice swing before setting up over the ball. Both hit 3-wood off the tee and made birdie on the opening hole. Both wound up with an even-par 70 on the Seaside Course. And both have a lot of work to make up ground on Kevin Kisner.
Kisner hit 3-wood to about 25 feet on the fringe and made eagle on his penultimate hole on the Plantation Course for a 7-under 65, giving him a one-shot lead based on par after the first round of the RSM Classic.
Jeff Overton, David Hearn and Tom Hoge each had a 6-under 64 on the Seaside Course.
The biggest crowd - which wasn't much on a day when storms threatened but never arrived - filled the bleachers behind the first tee to see some familiar faces.
Love, the 21-time winner on the PGA Tour, has lived at Sea Island since he was 13. They saw his son, known as Dru, go from a toddler with a plastic club to a 6-foot-5 junior at Alabama who earned a spot in the RSM Classic through a qualifier for the final exemption.
Those belonged mainly to dad.
''I was a little flustered,'' Love said. ''I was running late and nervous for him, and then he hit it right down the middle and hit it stiff and made birdie. And I stopped worrying about him and started worrying about me a little more.''
Neither made many birdies on a soft, calm and cloudy day that was ideal for low scoring - 110 players in the 156-man field broke par. Love's round went the wrong direction with a poor tee shot that led to double bogey on the 13th hole. Dru Love caught his dad with a big tee shot and a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th. On the final hole, Love had a 10-foot birdie putt to finish 1 under and just missed it.
This wasn't a father-and-son competition - at least not to the father.
Asked his goal for Friday, Dru Love smiled and said, ''Beat my dad.''
''I didn't beat him today,'' the son said. ''Obviously, my goal is to make the cut. I've got that in the back of my head. I'll try to be more patient. After I birdied the first hole, my expectations were a little high. I've played this course a lot and I've played it well. So I think I thought I could play better than I did.''
Making it easier for Dru Love was having Justin Thomas along for the ride. Thomas, who missed two short birdie putts at the end and had to settle for a 67, played two years with him at Alabama, and he made it feel like an old college match, even telling Dru Love, ''Nice save, Bigfoot,'' after a nifty up-and-down on the 16th.
Dru Love has a size 13 shoe and has been called that since his freshman year at Alabama.
Kisner had done everything but win this year. He has lost in a playoff three times - to Jim Furyk at Hilton Head, to Rickie Fowler at The Players Championship and in a four-man playoff at The Greenbrier Classic - and he was runner-up at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai two weeks ago.
''I haven't been disappointed in any stretch of golf coming down the stretch to have a chance. I always rate myself on that,'' Kisner said. ''I've just gotten beaten a few times, so hopefully I'll have a chance coming down with a couple-shot lead on Sunday.''
It is rare for fathers and sons to play together on the PGA Tour. Craig Stadler and son Kevin played in the 2014 Masters. Jay Haas has played numerous times with son Bill, a six-time tour winner. Jack Nicklaus played his final full season in 2000 when son Gary earned his tour card.
Love is curious to see if his son can develop into a PGA Tour player.
''I hope that he's another one of these kids that come out here and is chasing me off,'' Love said. ''I hit a really good drive at 15 and I think Dru was 20 (yards) by me and Justin was 40 by me. I was like, 'Oh, they're going to run me off eventually.' It's fun to watch Dru play. ... I was proud of him. Heck of a first day.
''With everything going on around our family and him getting in this tournament and all the attention, I thought he handled it really well and played a good round of golf.''
Dru Love conceded to having a few nerves, too, though it helped to be with Thomas, and to know ''just about everyone in the stands behind us everyone in fairway.''
And it helped to have his father along for the ride.
''We talked about normal stuff, mostly about what we're going to have for lunch and dinner,'' Dru Love said. ''He's good at leaving me alone when I need to be left alone. He tried to treat me like he would anyone else out there.''