Kis­ner es­capes, but pur­suers abound

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

char­lotte — Kevin Kis­ner sur­vived a calami­tous fin­ish at the PGA Cham­pi­onship thanks to a good bounce off a bridge that al­lowed him to es­cape with a bo­gey and take a one-shot lead into the fi­nal round at Quail Hol­low.

Kis­ner al­ready gave up a twoshot lead with a 6-iron into the wa­ter on the 16th hole for dou­ble bo­gey.

Then, he nearly did it again at the end of Quail Hol­low’s fa­bled “Green Mile.” His 7-iron went left to­ward the creek un­til it landed on the con­crete bridge, sailed high in the air and dis­ap­peared in the thick grass on the hill above the wa­ter. Kis­ner did well to chop that onto the green and two-putt from 45 feet for a 1-over­par 72.

Ja­son Day wasn’t so for­tu­nate, most of that his own do­ing. Day took a big risk and paid a big price, go­ing from be­hind a tree to flower bushes, into the rough and short of the green. The fi­nal re­sult was a quadru­ple-bo­gey 8, leav­ing him seven shots be­hind.

Kis­ner has the lead go­ing into the fi­nal round, a great spot to pur­sue his first ma­jor cham­pi­onship.

He just doesn’t like what he sees in his rearview mir­ror, where the play­ers are a lot closer than they once ap­peared.

Hideki Mat­suyama made only one birdie and wasted two good scor­ing chances on the back nine. Then again, he had a rather dull fin­ish that al­lowed him to sal­vage a 73 and leaves him only one shot be­hind as he tries to bring Japan its first ma­jor cham­pi­onship.

Chris Stroud, the last player to qual­ify for the PGA Cham­pi­onship, was briefly tied for the lead un­til he three-putted his last two holes for a 71. He is one shot be­hind and will be play­ing in the fi­nal group with Kis­ner.

“I’m happy I’m in the po­si­tion I’m in,” said Kis­ner, who is at 7-un­der 206. “I had a chance to run away from guys and take peo­ple out of the tour­na­ment that were four or five, six back. And I didn’t do it. Now I’m in a dog­fight to­mor­row, and I have to be pre­pared for that.”

Af­ter the fi­nal hour of the third round Sat­ur­day, he should be pre­pared for any­thing.

Justin Thomas, the son of a PGA pro­fes­sional, had the right for­mula. He didn’t drop a stroke over the last 12 holes and had a 69 to fin­ish just two shots be­hind along with Louis Oosthuizen, who saved par on the 18th with a bold shot for a 71.

It was ev­ery­one else in the hunt that fell apart.

Rickie Fowler, qui­etly lurk­ing with four birdies in an eight-hole stretch, failed to birdie the par-5 15th — the eas­i­est hole at Quail Hol­low — and fol­lowed with a three-putt bo­gey on the 16th, an 8-iron into the wa­ter for dou­ble bo­gey on the 17th and a three­p­utt bo­gey from just over 20 feet on the 18th. That gave him a 73, and af­ter get­ting within three shots, he trails by six.

Paul Casey also was in po­si­tion un­til his shot on 18 missed by a frac­tion and set­tled in the rough above the hole. His chip ran off the green, and he made dou­ble bo­gey. Casey played the fi­nal three holes in 4 over and shot a 74. He is seven be­hind.

The shocker was Day, the for­mer No. 1 player in the world and a PGA cham­pion two years ago. He looked more like Jean Van de Velde, only he was stand­ing amid bushes of flow­ers in­stead of knee deep in the burn at Carnoustie.

Day was stymied by a pine tree, and in­stead of play­ing safe out to the fair­way as Oosthuizen had done in the group ahead of him, he tried to hook an iron around the trees and the gallery to get a clear look at the green. But it went right into the flow­ers, and af­ter a penalty drop, Day couldn’t even get that back to the fair­way.

He came up short of the green on his way to a quadru­ple-bo­gey 8 and a 77. He left with­out speak­ing to re­porters.

Of the 15 play­ers who re­mained un­der par, Oosthuizen is the only one who has won a ma­jor, and that was seven years ago. The South African had his own prob­lems. His right arm tight­ened up on the front nine, and he re­quired a ther­a­pist to work on it. Then he hit a root on a shot with an 8-iron and bent the club, mean­ing he couldn’t use it when he needed it late in his round.

He still has a chance to add to that Bri­tish Open ti­tle at St. An­drews in 2010.

“It’s the type of golf course you don’t have to go out and make birdies,” Oosthuizen said. “You just need to keep ev­ery­thing to­gether.”

STU­ART FRANKLIN/GETTY IM­AGES

Kevin Kis­ner, walk­ing along the 17th hole at Quail Hol­low on Sat­ur­day, leads af­ter a 1-over-par 72.

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