The PGA Tour has a personality problem—more specifically, a lack-of-personality problem. So many of the game’s top players offer vanilla answers to questions, show little emotion while competing and only engage with fans when sponsors tell them to.
Kevin Kisner is not one of those guys. The 35-year-old—who just picked up the biggest win of his career at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play—is 5 feet, 10 inches of candor, humor and humility. Fans, journalists and other players appreciate Kisner because he keeps it real, and that’s why his victory on Sunday was so popular within the golf world.
Kiz was asked about the $1.74 million he took home for the win. True to form, he responsed: "I'm the cheapest guy in the world. I hoard that money like crazy, because I don't want it to run out. I don't know how long I'm going to be able to make 10-footers,” he said.
Here is a rundown of some reasons why so many adore Kevin Kisner.
At last year’s Zurich Classic, the two-man team event in New Orleans, the Tour allowed each team to play a first-tee walk up song. This led to some fantastic choices—Korean duo K.J. Choi and Charlie Wi went with “Gangnam Style,” Charley Hoffman (who is from San Diego) and Nick Watney (Sacramento) played “California Love,” and Harold Varner and Robert Garrigus picked “Ebony and Ivory” for obvious reasons.
But the best moment of the week came via Kisner and his partner, Scott Brown. They let fans vote for their walk-up song, and the winner was “Slippery” by Atlanta rap trio Migos. I could try to describe why this was so funny, but you’d be better served by simply watching this video.
First, Kisner decided to keep the music playing while he hit the tee shot. The Zurich Classic doesn’t offer world ranking points nor does the winner get a Master’s invite, but it is a PGA Tour event. Winning it comes with FedEx Cup points, more than $1 million and a two-year exemption. It’s not even close to meaningless; so that Kisner was down to keep the music playing shows he doesn’t take himself, or this game, too seriously. That’s nice to see, but what makes this truly hilarious is the lyrics playing when he makes contact. “She f---s with me, your wife to be.” Incredible. Look at Brown trying not to laugh. And of course, Kiz piped it right down the center. Boss.
2019 MAJOR OUTLOOK
Kisner has three PGA Tour wins and has more than $19 million in career prize money. He’s been ranked as high as No. 14 in the world, he’s represented the U.S. at the Presidents Cup and he’s finished second in a major championship before. He is, by anyone’s standards, one of the best golfers in the world, so you’d expect him to feel pretty good about his chances in the majors.
You would be wrong. In aN interview with Barstool’s Fore Play podcast, Kisner was asked about his odds at each of the four host venues this year.
On Augusta: “They changed No. 5 to 495, so that adds another bogey for me.”
On Bethpage Black: “PGA, Bethpage, got no chance there.”
On Pebble Beach: “I can play decent if the USGA wasn’t running it.”
On Royal Portrush: “I’ve got no idea about Ireland.”
Contrast this with JT’s response on the same podcast, where he said he likes his chances at all four venues, and you get a better sense of just how different Kisner’s level of honesty is.
THE WINGED FOOT STORY
This text explains it all:
A PGA Tour pro who can have a genuinely good time playing with amateurs? You don’t say!
Kiz seemed to confirm this story with his post-WGC tweet:
WHEN HE GOT SUSPENDED FROM HIS OWN CLUB
A Vice video from 2016 showed Kisner and his buddies racing golf carts at Kisner’s home course, Palmetto Golf Club. He was apparently suspended shortly thereafter because, you know, racing golf carts usually isn’t allowed at private clubs.
HOW DID HE COPE WITH PLAYOFF LOSSES?
Kisner lost three playoffs in 2015—first at the RBC Heritage to Jim Furyk, then at the Players Championship to Rickie Fowler, then at the Greenbrier to Danny Lee. After the Players defeat, he was asked how he dealt with those near-misses. This is a question most players would answer with something like, "just gotta keep working hard, practicing harder. I know it'll come in the future."
HE DOESN'T HIT THE BALL UNGODLY DISTANCES
On the 2018-19 season, Kisner ranks 156th in driving distance at 286.8 yards. While he's still playing a different game than virtually all amateurs, it's not that much of a different game—he can't carry bunkers farther than 270 yards out. He doesn't hit his 6 iron 210 yards. He finds a ton of fairways, has a really solid iron game and excells on the greens. Nothing too fancy. It's a relatable game, so to speak.
NOT HOLDING BACK ON PATRICK REED
The PGA Tour is a fraternity of sorts, with 200 or so men traveling around the world to play in most of the same tournaments. You can understand why players are generally averse to confrontation, since they know they’ll have to see—and likely play alongside—whomever they might speak negatively of.
Again, this is where Kisner departs from the norm.
Kisner played college golf at Georgia, the same school Patrick Reed started at before he was kicked off the team and transferred to Augusta State. In a Golf Digest piece on Reed’s controversial past, Kisner said the following:
“They all hate him—any guys that were on the team with him [at Georgia] hate him and that’s the same way at Augusta. I don’t know that they’d piss on him if he was on fire, to tell you the truth.”
Say what you want about that comment (and that imagery), but Kisner certainly isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind. People notice that and appreciate that. In an era of 210-pound behemoths who fly it 315 and never say anything interesting, Kisner plays and carries himself like the guy at your club who is just better than everyone else. He is the people’s champion, and now he is a World Golf Champion.