Pardon the language in the headline, but it was the first word that came to mind and seemed rather appropriate when a player knows he needs to chip-in for eagle in order to force a playoff on the final hole in the final round and successfully comes through in the clutch in a do-or-die situation.
That’s exactly what Kevin Kisner did at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans — which marked the first official PGA Tour event to feature a team format (foursomes, aka alternate shot, in the first and third rounds and four-ball, aka best ball, in the second and fourth rounds) in 36 years.
Badass. Baller. Clutch. Gutsy. Legend. Epic. Take your pick. It was all of those things and more.
Playing in near darkness, Kisner, who was partnered with buddy Scott Brown, holed a 31-yard chip for eagle with authority that was a must-make on the par-5 18th at TPC Louisiana. Kisner and Brown were paired with the duo of Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt, the 54-hole leaders who also had a one-shot lead heading into the final hole. Smith knocked his shot to tap-in distance for birdie, so Kisner knew he needed a minor miracle to even the score.
As you can see in the video below, Kisner hit the bump-and-run chip firmly, ensuring the ball would make it to the hole, and it hit the flagstick dead-center and dropped straight down into the hole. It doesn’t get much better than that. Some may consider it lucky, but it was pretty much a perfect chip under pressure and under those circumstances.
Da-yam! KIZ! C-l-u-t-c-h.
“I knew (Blixt and Smith) were going to make birdie,” said Kisner. “All I was trying to do was make sure I didn’t leave it short, and I couldn’t see much. I knew it was breaking a little right, and when it hit the flag, I said, don’t you come out of there.
“I knew I was going to make it the whole time. No, I’m just kidding. I just told myself, get it there…I thought I had a chance…we knew they were going to make birdie. It’s just one of those shots that you dream about.”
Oh, by the way, it was Kisner’s THIRD chip-in of the day.
(Note to self: Remember to contact Callaway on Monday about ordering new Mack Daddy wedges. I am still obsessed with my worn-out Mack Daddy 2s, which I had to retire, and made the mistake of not getting the 3s and trying out the Callaway PMs instead — also great wedges — but personally, I prefer the Mack Daddy line. Random fact: I had never carried a 60* wedge in my bag until the Mack Daddy 2s showed up at my door and I tried it out and now I don’t know how I ever survived without one. And I was a decent around the greens with just my 56* in the height of my playing days when I was a scratch handicap at age 16-18-ish.)
Added Brown: “I walked by him and told him just knock it right in. He’s been doing it all day. He already chipped in twice today, so I told him one more time wouldn’t hurt. And then he did it.”
Despite the result of the tournament yet to be determined, Kisner already estimates that the shot probably ranks in the top-three of his career.
“It’s too much to think about right now,” said Kisner. “But I just was trying to make sure I got it to the hole, and I did, and just glad it stayed in there.”
Due to inclement weather in the New Orleans area, tee times were moved up to as early as possible in the morning. Kisner and Brown got off to a hot start, opening with six consecutive birdies to take the lead, but their momentum was stymied by sound of the horn blowing, signaling the suspension of play. Severe thunderstorms resulted in a annoyingly long delay that totaled six hours, 22 minutes.
When play finally resumed, Kisner and Brown picked up right where they left off, firing off two more birdies. Of these eight straight birdies, Kisner rolled in six in a row on his own from hole nos. 2-7. So you could say Kiz did most of the heavy lifting, but that’s irrelevant as it’s a team effort, after all, and Kisner and Brown are a tight duo, with both residing in Aikien, South Carolina, and calling their home course Palmetto Golf Club.
“We know each other so well that we knew what the game plan was, go make a ton of birdies, and every time we made one, I kept saying, let’s birdie the next one, buddy,” said Kisner.
The pair settled with a par on the ninth, but then carded two consecutive birdies to kick off the back nine. At one point, they held a three-shot lead before cooling down and jumping on the par train. All credit to Blixt and Smith, as they fought back with birdies on nos. 11, 12, 16 and 17 and 18.
It was basically already a foregone conclusion that the dreaded “M” word (Monday finish) was inevitable, but with such a thrilling end to play in regulation, it’s one of those rare occasions where perhaps even the media members who are on-site are OK with it. Well, that’s maybe going a little too far, as it’s always a drag to adjust travel plans.
The four-ball playoff will commence on no. 18 at 8am CT (9am ET)
The golfing world and fans were intrigued with the inaugural year of this two-man team format, which we usually only see once a year either at the Presidents Cup and/or Ryder Cup, both of which take place once every two years. With the Ryder Cup never failing to produce drama, most of us lament that we’d like to see team events take place more often, not to mention match play — or simply anything other than the sometimes mundane individual 72-hole stroke-play employed every week on the PGA Tour, with the exception of the WGC-Match Play tournament.
While this newly-implemented format at the Zurich Classic wasn’t technically match play, the stars were aligned and it turned out essentially to play out that way. Tournament organizers and the Tour should send Kisner/Brown some sort of thank-you gift for saving the weekend in New Orleans. With the star-studded duos of Henrik Stenson/Justin Rose and Jason Day/Rickie Fowler failing to make the cut and plagued with inclement weather leading to delays, the event lost some of its cache over the weekend. And then Kisner reinvigorated the energy and excitement prevalent earlier in the week with just one shot.
“We love the format,” said Brown. “Obviously we play together quite a bit at home. We kind of sneaky practiced for this event last week at home together, and I feel like we were prepared for it.”
To be continued…