A diehard Georgia Bulldog, Kevin Kisner has never been described as a fair-weather fan. When it comes to the Masters, however, he is.
“I just hope we have a good-weather year,” said the Aiken native regarding Masters Week. “The golf course is difficult for me because it’s so long. I gotta be on my game around the greens and I need good weather. Hopefully those two conditions happen this year.”
Kisner averages 287.7 yards driving, making him among the shorter hitters on the PGA Tour, ranking 169th. That leaves him at a distinct disadvantage on a 7,435-yard Augusta course against the likes of Dustin Johnson and even Jordan Spieth averaging 24 and 11 yards more per drive, respectively.
Proper spring weather can be the great equalizer. Hard winds like players experienced the first couple of rounds last year at the Masters can be harsh on players like Kisner.
“That wind doesn’t do me any favors when it’s blowing that hard,” he said. “Cold and windy is about as bad as it gets for me there. It makes the long holes play so hard and you feel like you’ll never make a birdie. I’m ready for it to be 80 (degrees) – firm and fast and warm. That’s the best-case scenario for me and that way the ball is chasing in the fairways and I can have some shorter irons into the greens.”
In his two previous starts at the Masters, Kisner has been just good enough to make the weekend but finished tied for 37th and 43rd.
“Very average,” he said. “Never felt like I was in the tournament in any Masters appearance. That’s unfortunate.”
That had become a theme for him at the majors. Kisner is one of only three players to reach the weekend in all eight majors the last two years, but prior to last summer’s PGA Championship at Quail Hollow his average finish was 48th.
At the PGA, however, Kisner shared the lead each of the first two rounds and held a one-shot lead through 54 holes – making him the first Augusta-area golfer to hold a lead at the end of any major round since Larry Mize was the 36-hole leader at the 1994 Masters.
“That’s where our goal was,” he said of the PGA experience, where he was in contention until a bogey and double on the 16th and 18th holes dropped him to seventh place. “I played in all these majors and made cuts but never competed. I wanted to get in contention. Obviously got there with a chance and that’s all you can ever ask for. Every time you have experience in that situation you can only learn from it and get better and hopefully that will be the case this season.”
The 2018 season hasn’t sustained the momentum that Kisner had hoped for, but he’s concentrated on working out a few kinks in his scrambling to get ready for the Masters.
“I haven’t played that great this year so I’ve just been working on my own game,” said Kisner, who hasn’t taken any pre-tournament trips to Augusta National as he had the last two years. “I know what needs to go well to play well there. I’ve have chances this year in Hawaii and Palm Springs to do something well and haven’t finished it off. Then missed a few cuts. Just not playing solid. I’m starting to see some good things and really working on my short game.
“I thought the only area I needed to improve in my stats was scrambling and when I scramble well I’m normally in the top 10 in tournaments.”
With good practice and good weather, Kisner hopes to match Mize’s major-winning achievement at the 1987 Masters