On mov­ing day at PGA, lead­ers go back­ward

Kis­ner has a one-shot edge at Quail Hol­low, which shows its teeth late in the third round.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Art Span­der

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. — It’s called Quail Hol­low, bring­ing vi­sions of a golf­ing Eden deep in the Carolina woods. Do not be fooled. The pros in the 99th PGA haven’t been. They’ve learned ex­actly how nasty the place can be.

Ev­ery hole is an ad­ven­ture. Or a dis­as­ter. Ja­son Day was rolling along close to the lead in Sat­ur­day’s round, hav­ing birdied 14, 15 and 16. He closed bo­gey, quadru­ple bo­gey, hit­ting shots ev­ery­where on No. 18.

Even the leader, Kevin Kis­ner, wasn’t im­mune. He dou­ble-bo­geyed 16 and bo­geyed 18. And the only rea­son Kis­ner still is in first by one shot — he’s at 206, seven un­der par — is that the two men tied for sec­ond, Chris Stroud and Hideki Mat­suyama lost strokes on the back nine. Also, Kis­ner got a great bounce off a bridge on No. 18 that kept his bo­gey from be­ing worse.

Kis­ner shot a one-over 72; Mat­suyama, with bo­geys on 12 and 13, a 73; Stroud, with bo­geys on 17 and 18, a 71. Day, who seemed in per­fect po­si­tion af­ter those three con­sec­u­tive birdies, shot 77.

The one who con­quered Quail Hol­low was Cana­dian Gra­ham DeLaet, who went birdie, ea­gle, ea­gle, birdie on the back nine, shot 68 and is tied for sev­enth.

“I had a chance to run away from guys and take

[Golf, peo­ple out of the tour­na­ment that were four, five, six back, and I didn’t do it,” Kis­ner said. “But I’m happy with the po­si­tion I’m in.”

Who wouldn’t be, es­pe­cially a 33-year-old like Kis­ner who never has fin­ished in the top 10 in a ma­jor, whose brother-in-law was one of Quail Hol­low’s founders and who lives a cou­ple hours away in Aiken, S.C.?

“I re­ally like that I know the course and think it’s go­ing to be re­ally help­ful to­mor­row,” Kis­ner said.

Still, know­ing and do­ing are dif­fer­ent things. The shots have to be played.

Mat­suyama has been one of the hottest play­ers on Tour, win­ning last Sun­day af­ter shoot­ing 61 at Fire­stone in the last round of the Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional. Yet Sat­ur­day he con­ceded he isn’t quite the same.

“Prob­a­bly the pres­sure had some­thing to do with it,” Mat­suyama said. “I’m dis­ap­pointed the way I played to­day.”

Stroud is the sur­prise con­tender. Last Sun­day, af­ter 11 years and 289 tour­na­ments, he got his first vic­tory, in the Bar­racuda Cham­pi­onship at Reno, the sec­ondary event to the Bridge­stone.

“In col­lege [at La­mar Uni­ver­sity in Texas] my name was Mr. Pos­i­tiv­ity,” Stroud said. “It def­i­nitely helped me early in my ca­reer. To fi­nally win is re­ally mag­i­cal. I’m still on cloud nine.”

It doesn’t hurt that he’s on a leader­board that, other than 2010 Bri­tish Open cham­pion Louis Oosthuizen at five un­der, has no one who has won a ma­jor.

DeLaet, who never has won in the United States, came close to a cou­ple of holes in one on his hot stretch, in­clud­ing on the short par-four 14th. “I hit the hole,” he said.

Told that Rory McIl­roy was ru­mi­nat­ing about how hard Quail Hol­low was play­ing, DeLaet said, “It was dif­fi­cult. He was not ly­ing to you guys. It’s a re­ally, re­ally chal­leng­ing test out there, es­pe­cially with the greens as firm as they are.”

That’s what the course for a ma­jor should be, al­though there’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween tough and al­most im­pos­si­ble.

Did Day take an eight on the last hole be­cause of veg­e­ta­tion or be­cause he played some reck­less shots?

Kis­ner said the idea is to be ag­gres­sive but within rea­son, be­cause as Day learned painfully, Quail Hol­low makes one pay for mis­takes.

“It’s a dif­fi­cult mind-set where you’re hold­ing on and then it’s like. ‘Oh, I’ve got to birdie, I’ve got to birdie,’ ” Kis­ner said. “You’ve got to be ready to han­dle the sit­u­a­tion and the change, take your 30 feet and take your medicine.”

At Quail Hol­low that medicine can be very bit­ter. sports@la­times.com

Stu­art Franklin Getty Im­ages

KEVIN KIS­NER is count­ing on his course knowl­edge in fi­nal round.

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