Maintain what he’s done over the first three rounds of the PGA Championship, and Kevin Kisner of Aiken, S.C., will win his first major.
Kisner will enter Sunday’s final round at Quail Hollow Club with a one-stroke lead over Houston’s Chris Stroud and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama. Kisner bogeyed the 18th hole Saturday after landing his approach shot in the rough to the left of the green.
That was atypical of the methodical, disciplined way Kisner has approached the new layout at Quail Hollow. All week he’s been willing to sacrifice length to stay away from the gnarly Bermuda grass that surrounds the fairways here.
“I like to be aggressive. But sometimes I get a little too aggressive, like on 18,” Kisner said. “You have to play away from the hole on so many shots throughout the day, and then all of a sudden they give you a couple of holes in a row on either side that you’ve got to attack.”
Quail Hollow and Charlotte in general are familiar, comfortable settings for Kisner, whose parents both attended Charlotte’s Harding High. Kisner’s brother-in-law is a Quail Hollow member, so he gets abundant opportunity to play the course, about a two-hour drive from his home near the South Carolina-Georgia border.
“I think it’s really beneficial for me here, unlike other majors (courses) that we play once every five years or something,” Kisner said. “I really like that I know the golf course. I think it’s going to be really helpful” Sunday.
Stroud needed to win a tournament in Reno, Nev., last Sunday just to make the field for the 99th PGA Championship. He briefly tied Kisner for the lead Saturday before bogeys on his last two holes. Stroud finished even-par for the round.
Matsuyama finished 2-over Saturday, with a single birdie on hole No. 7, and three bogeys. He was smoking hot Friday with a 64, tied for the best round in the first two days.
Kisner made a double-bogey on the No. 16 par 4, the first of three finishing holes known as the "Green Mile." That negated the two birdies Kisner shot on holes 14 and 15.
Kisner has taken a particularly measured approach to Quail Hollow’s latest layout: He focuses on four holes – Nos. 7, 8, 14 and 15 – as prime birdie opportunities.
“It’s a difficult mindset, where you’re almost holding on, holding on, and then you’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to birdie! I’ve got to birdie!’”
“I felt 4 and 5 were big holes for me to learn.”
For the rest of the course, he considers par a victory. The rough at Quail Hollow is now a gnarly Bermuda grass, and Kisner is willing to give up some length to keep more shots on the fairway.
He stuck to that plan Saturday with pars on the course’s first six holes. Then, he shot birdie on No. 7, a par 5. Kisner bogeyed No. 12, but that was commonplace Saturday: Five of the six players in the third round’s final two groups couldn’t make par on that hole.
Stroud made four birdies in his first 14 holes, briefly tying Kisner for the lead before Kisner shot birdie on No. 14 to lead by a stroke.
Matsuyama, the third-ranked player in the world, had a spectacular round Friday, shooting 64 to rise up the leaderboard. He bogeyed immediately Saturday on No. 1, one of the holes that was remodeled by course designer Tom Fazio about a year ago. Quail Hollow used land previously used for hole No. 2 to reshape hole No. 1, building a new second hole.
Matsuyama has won three tournaments this year, tied for most on the PGA Tour. He won last week at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio. At 25, Matsuyama is still pursuing his first major.
Five who mattered
Jason Day: He had a wild final six holes Saturday – a double-bogey, a quadruple-bogey, a bogey and three birdies. That left him with a 77.
Grayson Murray: Raleigh’s Murray had a 2-under round to enter Sunday four strokes out of the lead.
Justin Thomas: The Kentuckian is in the chase after a 2-under round of 69.
Rickie Fowler: He had a brutal finish Saturday with two bogeys and a double-bogey over the Green Mile.
Louis Oosthuizen: Played to par Saturday, which keeps him within two shots of the lead.
▪ Twenty-five players completed their second round Saturday morning, due to Friday’s weather-related interruption. Play began at 7:30 a.m., in time to start the third round in threesomes starting at 10 a.m.
▪ Once the second round was completed, the cut was set at 147 for two rounds, or 5-over-par. Six players were tied at 147.
▪ Chris Stroud of Houston was the only player in serious contention who had to finish Saturday morning. He entered the third round at 6-under.
▪ Stroud nearly didn’t make the field. His win last week in the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nev., was his ticket to the Quail Hollow field.
▪ Five former winners made the PGA Championship cut: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Vijay Singh and Jason Dufner.
▪ Australian Rod Pampling, out of reach to make the cut Saturday morning, drove a ball straight into the woods, drawing laughs from his fellow players.
▪ With Phil Mickelson missing the cut, it will be interesting if his pre-tournament prediction – that the winning score will be close to par – proves accurate.
▪ It’s tough to tell a teenager not to take a selfie. Volunteers kept informing them mobile photography is forbidden during competition in this tournament.
▪ Kisner picked up some fans this week. Fans parked at the No. 8 hole waited for the “local guy” to play through.
▪ With temperatures and humidity rising, concession stands had longer lines than bathrooms much of Saturday afternoon.
By the numbers
3 Victories by Matsuyama on the PGA Tour this season. He’s tied for most wins on the tour.
12 The hole that beat the best Saturday. Five of the six players in the final two groups bogeyed (or in the case Jason Day, double-bogeyed) No. 12.
78 Thorbjorn Olesen’s second-round score, after he had a share of the lead Thursday.
They said it
“I think the winning score is going to be around 10-under.” – Jordan Spieth.
“They are incredibly undulating and fast. ... It’s the toughest putting surfaces I think we will encounter all year.” – Charlottean Webb Simpson on the greens at Quail Hollow.
“The changes are pretty good, other than the green on 4. ... You can hit a great shot and it just kicks over the green into the tall stuff.” – J.B, Holmes on the rebuilt No. 4 green.
Sunday’s high is projected at 89 degrees. There is a 60 percent chance of rain and winds will range from five to 10 mph.