Kevin Kisner knows he’ll be more settled for his second Masters Tournament appearance. He hopes the wind will follow suit.
Kisner had a lot going on off the course during his debut. He was in the process of renovating his house in his hometown of Aiken and stayed with his parents during the tournament. And then there were all the ticket requests.
“I haven’t had all the people yelling at me for tickets,” he said. “Last year they were yelling the moment I got in. I think this year’s going to be way more low-key for me. And it will be fun to sleep in my own bed in my own house. I’m looking forward to all that.”
Kisner, who qualified for the Masters by virtue of winning the RSM Classic in late 2015, had the misfortune of making his debut during one of the windiest of recent Masters. The wind never let up in the first three rounds, gusting to 32 mph at one point in the third round, leading to a scoring average of 76.719 that day.
Kisner shot 77-72 to make the cut by a shot, then followed that with 76-72 to tie for 37th place.
“It’s just not that much fun to play when it’s like that just because it’s so hard and so difficult,” Kisner said. “It was as difficult as it could be. You’re just trying to get through it more than trying to make a bunch of birdies. The wind was throwing everybody off. Only 5-under par won and 2-under par was second. You don’t see that around there very often. Six-over-par is the cut so I think everybody was struggling with that.”
It wasn’t just the difficulty of pulling the right club on approach shots to the greens because of the blustery conditions that baffled the field.
“You had to be very careful on the greens with the putting,” Kisner said. “You get straight downwind, you’re just dead. You’ve got to be super careful with those. In fact, I watched Justin Thomas four-putt on No. 7 on Saturday. He had about 4 feet for par and about 50 feet for bogey. It was incredible. The wind switched right in his backstroke and it blew straight downwind and blew his ball straight off the green.”
Putting in windy conditions poses a number of problems for Kisner.
“I always find it difficult if it’s a crosswind against a break, to tell if the wind is going to affect it or not,” he said. “And I’m not the heaviest person in the world so I feel like I’m getting blown over all the time, on a skill you’re trying to be as still as possible. The ball-striking is mostly a guess, when it gets up in the 25 to 30 (mph), but for me putting is the most difficult.”
Kisner finally enjoyed himself in the final round, when he made four birdies and an eagle for 72.
“The final round was better. I bogeyed the last two for even-par so I had a chance to shoot in the 60s. It’s a lot more fun to play that way.”
Kisner said he was nervous on the first tee Thursday but had to tell himself that it was just another tournament.
“You have to prepare the same way even though I grew up right down the road and have a lot of people out there,” he said.
Nine months later, Kisner nearly joined an exclusive club on the PGA Tour in January when he flirted with shooting 59 in the third round of the Sony Open. His 9-footer for eagle on the final hole looked good all the way until it just slid by the right side of the hole.
“When I first looked up, I said dead center, that’s the first thought in my mind to tell you the truth,” he said. “Those greens get a little grainy like I’m used to at home, and the grain was going right, but I still thought it would go left. Can’t be that upset. I hit a good putt, hit a good shot and then it was fun coming down the stretch. Almost felt like you were in kind of the heat to win. That was fun.”