Kevin Kisner returns after long fall break with big goals for 2018

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Kisner returns after long fall break with big goals for 2018

PGA Tour

Kevin Kisner returns after long fall break with big goals for 2018

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – The perfect fall formula for Kevin Kisner? That’s a good question. He doesn’t know if he’s solved that riddle quite yet.

Two years ago, he played four fall events, finished second in China (HSBC Champions) and won the RSM Classic, and led the FedEx Cup standings when a new year began at Kapalua. He’d lose some steam, going on to finish 23rd in the FedEx Cup race.

Last fall, he made one fewer autumn start, had a best finish of T-26 in Malaysia, missed the cut at RSM and ended up having his best season to date, finishing 12th in the FedEx Cup. His reward? A spot on his first Presidents Cup team.

So what has Kisner mapped out this autumn? Well … he has taken it off altogether, getting settled in at home in Aiken, S.C., as he and his wife welcomed a second child in September, a son named Henry.

“First time in 10 years that I’ve had that amount of time off,” Kisner, 33, said Wednesday at Sea Island Resort, where on Thursday he returns to competition alongside Patton Kizzire and Mac Hughes as the RSM commences. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”

How did he stay busy? He worked on his parenting skills, which, with two children now, has become “mano-a-mano” combat. He staged the first event for his foundation at Sage Valley Golf Club down the road in Graniteville two weeks ago. And once he checked his bank account, which he said was “getting a little low,” he got back to work, returning to the practice tee with his instructor, John Tillery. Though Wednesday’s pro-am was only his fifth round since the Presidents Cup ended on Oct. 1, Kisner has been pleasantly surprised with his game, especially with how well he drove the ball.

As for the right mix of play and rest to best get himself ready for the new season? That remains a work in progress.

“I’ve done it two different ways the last two years,” Kisner said. “So I’m not sure of the best way. Obviously, the No. 1 thing is to play well, and the way I’m going to play well is go to places that I love to play.”

Sea Island’s Seaside and Plantation courses certainly would qualify. As a Georgia Bulldog, he played the SEC Championship each spring at Seaside, and he moved to Sea Island for a year when he turned pro, playing and practicing there exclusively. When he had extensive work done on his house in South Carolina, the family put down stakes temporarily on Sea Island.

As the course name indicates, these courses are prone to wind, and when the wind kicks up from the nearby Atlantic Ocean, knowledge is a big asset. Kisner knows all the shots that he needs to play. Unlike a year ago, he hopes wind is a bigger factor this week, and that the golf course plays difficult. He feels that is when it is at his best.

Kisner collected his second PGA Tour title in May, at Colonial, and carried a lead into Sunday at the PGA Championship at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow, staying in the mix through much of the day before falling back with a 74. He tied for seventh. But in giving himself that opportunity, he is bolstered knowing that he gained valuable experience for majors down the road. It’s an experience that he will call upon.

“The goal last year was to get the chance to win a major,” he said. “I’d made a bunch of cuts in majors but never really felt like I was in contention. I wanted to get in that position to understand that, because I think that’s huge going forward to win one. You’ve got to understand what the pressure is.

“It was an awesome setting at Quail Hollow, a really good chance to win. I kind of came back there late on the back nine and then let it get away (he finished bogey-par-double). But I was pretty excited about where my game was, and the opportunity to get back in the fire.”

His reward for his season of steady play (28 starts, a win, two runner-up finishes, eight top 10s, only three missed cuts) was a berth on Steve Stricker’s U.S. Presidents Cup team that rolled over the Internationals at Liberty National in New Jersey. It had taken a lot of hard work for him to finally get there, and once he got his taste, he wants to taste it again. Soon.

His two main goals for 2017-18: Get back to the Tour Championship at East Lake, where he has been in each of the last three seasons, and make the U.S. Ryder Cup team that will try to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years in Paris.

Kisner called his Presidents Cup the best week he’s ever experienced on Tour.

“Obviously, getting paired with Phil (Mickelson) was pretty cool,” Kisner said. “I tell people all the time, the team meetings were the funniest part. We just sat around and made fun of each other and laughed. We don’t ever get to do that at a regular Tour event. You get done, you do your thing, he does his thing, you see him the next day.”

All Kisner knows is that he wants to be on that team that travels to Paris. How he gets there? It’s a little like his fall schedule. He’ll find a way to sort it out.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home