Steady Kis­ner, hot Mat­suyama share PGA lead

They are at eight un­der, two ahead of Day, as each seeks a first major win.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Art Span­der

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — He was the basketball player who wasn’t tall enough, the foot­ball player who got crushed. So Kevin Kis­ner, a feisty sort who en­joyed the ca­ma­raderie and com­pe­ti­tion of team sports, took the ad­vice of a high school coach who told him, “I think you ought to stick to golf.”

For a while, lack­ing con­fi­dence in his ball-strik­ing — the very essence of the game — it seemed he was stuck with golf. “I was like, ‘I got no chance the way I’m hit­ting it,’ ” Kis­ner said of his early days as a pro in the sport’s mi­nor leagues.

He has a chance now, a chance to win a major, the PGA Cham­pi­onship. With a bit of ar­ro­gance and a great deal of de­ter­mi­na­tion, plus the help of teach­ing pro John Tillery, Kis­ner re­built his swing. “It was so bad,” Kis­ner said, “I was shank­ing in the mid­dle of the fair­way.”

Now it’s so good, that along with a short game and putting skill Kis­ner al­ways pos­sessed, he’s tied for the lead with red-hot Hideki Mat­suyama in the PGA, which Fri­day al­most made it through the sec­ond round de­spite a 1-hour 43-minute weather sus­pen­sion.

Kis­ner, done early, long be­fore play was halted be­cause of rain and then dark­ness, shot a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive four-un­der-par 67 at Quail Hol­low. Mat­suyama, win­ner of last week­end’s

Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional, roared in late with a 64. Both are at eight-un­der 134.

Third at six-un­der 136 af­ter a 66 is Ja­son Day, the 2015 PGA win­ner and 2016 run­ner-up, while Francesco Moli­nari and Louis Oosthuizen are at five-un­der 137. Chris Stroud is five un­der with five holes to play Satur­day. Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Paul Casey are in at three-un­der 139.

The guys around whom the pre-tour­na­ment sto­ries were con­structed — Jor­dan Spi­eth, try­ing to win a ca­reer Grand Slam? Brooks Koepka, af­ter stomp­ing the field in the U.S.-Open? Ser­gio Gar­cia, vis­it­ing the world in his Masters cham­pion green jacket? — well . . .

Spi­eth, who nearly got lost in the pine straw on the par-five 10th, had a 73 af­ter an open­ing 72 and is at three-over 145, 11 be­hind. Koepka also shot 73 and is at one-un­der 141. Gar­cia had a 75, and his eight-over 150 won’t even keep him around for week­end play.

Top-ranked Dustin John­son and pre-tour­na­ment fa­vorite Rory McIl­roy are at two over.

The way Mat­suyama has played this sum­mer — sec­ond in the U.S. Open to Koepka; 14th in the Bri­tish Open and a few days ago clos­ing with a 61 to take the Bridge­stone — it very well could be his first major.

Then again, Quail Hol­low is sort of a home course for Kis­ner. Even though he lives in Aiken, S.C., some two hours away, Kis­ner fre­quently comes to the club of which a brother-in-law was a found­ing mem­ber.

He stopped by a month ago to check out the ren­o­va­tions, which turned Quail Hol­low from a regular Tour course into a major venue. Then again, lo­cal knowl­edge might be of no use the way Mat­suyama has per­formed.

“I am play­ing well,” Mat­suyama agreed. He has won three times since last October to move up to third in the world rank­ings. “But whether it’s the best I’ve played in my ca­reer, I’m not sure.”

That’s ir­rel­e­vant. He just has to be play­ing the best this week­end to win a major for the first time.

“I’m not sure,” he said again when asked what it would mean. “That’s a dif­fi­cult ques­tion, hard to think about. I try to imag­ine, but we have a lot of golf left.”

Kis­ner, 33, has been think­ing about a major since he turned pro.

“I’m just ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity,” he said. “I’ve been up­set with how I’ve played the ma­jors in my ca­reer. I feel like I have the game to com­pete in the ma­jors and tons of 30th-, 40thand 50th-place fin­ishes. I feel real com­fort­able here, and I know the course.”

Shawn Thew Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

IN THE GATH­ER­ING GLOOM, Ja­son Day hits his tee shot on the 18th hole as he hur­ries to com­plete his round of 66. There were 25 golfers left on the Quail Hol­low course who will com­plete the sec­ond round today.

Jeff Siner Charlotte Ob­server

RANKED THIRD in the world, Hideki Mat­suyama is com­ing off a vic­tory last week. He shot a 64.

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