Kevin Kisner rolling early at PGA Championship

Kevin Kisner Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Kisner rolling early at PGA Championship

PGA Tour

Kevin Kisner rolling early at PGA Championship

CHARLOTTE – Since winning at Colonial and tying for sixth at Memorial in consecutive weeks, Kevin Kisner has played, as he calls it, “a lot of average golf.” In four starts prior to last week’s WGC-Bridgestone, Kisner missed a cut – just his third all season – and didn’t finish better than T-44.

So he hit the practice range – hard. Working with swing coach John Tillery, Kisner ironed out some inconsistencies with his game, most notably fixing the pivot in his golf swing.

“I’m feeling like I’m loading better on my right side and trying to eliminate some of the push shots I hit,” Kisner said. “I always tend to block it off the tee. When I’m not blocking it, I feel pretty comfortable.”

Kisner’s caddie, Duane Bock, said something clicked for Kisner during the final round at Firestone. Kisner shot 4-under 66 to climb up the leaderboard and finish T-28, his best finish since the Memorial in early June.

“He started really hitting it good Sunday at Firestone and he carried that into here,” Bock said.

On Thursday, Kisner fired a 4-under 67 to grab a share of the first-round lead at the 99th PGA Championship. He made six birdies, including a closing one on the difficult par-4 18th – from the rough, no less.

But for Kisner, it was the birdies on four of the five easiest holes at Quail Hollow – Nos. 7, 8, 14 and 15 – that he was most pleased with.

“There’s about four or five holes that I have to birdie to compete, and I birdied them all today,” Kisner said. “So that’s kind of been my game plan: make a lot of pars and get to a par 5 or one of those short par 4s, I can do my wedge game and get it to 10 or 12 feet. That’s my plan. Other than that, I’m playing for par.”

And stealing a few birdies on some of the more difficult holes. Kisner birdied the 249-yard, par-3 sixth hole after hitting a 3-iron that barely cleared the front greenside bunker and ended up 10 feet from the hole. And on the closing hole, he drew a decent lie in the right rough before powering a 5-iron to 21 feet.

“I don’t know if I’m that good or lucky,” Kisner quipped.

If anything is certain, Kisner can flat-out putt with the flatstick. He ranked second in the field in strokes gained-putting (4.029) and made 104 feet of putts in Round 1.

The change from bentgrass to Bermuda putting surfaces, along with the quickness and undulations of the greens flustered a number of players on Thursday. Not Kisner.

“I love playing on the Bermuda,” Kisner said. “I like the bent when I’m in the rough, but I like the bermuda when I’m in the fairway. I think it’s great for the golf course. I think it makes it play more difficult. The firmness, you’re going to be able to keep it more firm, especially this time of year. But I love putting on the surfaces. They are pure. You know if you start it on line, even late in the day they were getting a little choppy, but you start it online, it’s going to have a good chance of going in.

“I just feel so comfortable, I don’t feel like I have to read it and over read it. I can stand up and putt like I’ve grown up doing.”

So for players looking to figure out these greens for Friday’s second round, they might want to study Kisner’s opening 18 holes.

“When they are rolling this fast, you have to have perfect speed because they are big breakers, and you have to almost dive them in high side every time because you don’t want the 4- and 5-footers coming back,” Kisner said. “… Here I think it’s more high side, speed, trying to will it in the hole on the last roll.”

There’s nothing Kisner would love more than to will a major-winning putt in on the last roll come Sunday.

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