CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The stand-up act didn’t have an audience. So he left.
It was a few minutes after 2:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, and Kevin Kisner and five of his Team USA Presidents Cup teammates were stationed at podiums inside a tent at Quail Hollow. This is how they handled pre-tournament press conferences this week — half the team, all at once, quotes and takes coming out like water from a fire hydrant — and the reporter hurd hadn’t fully gotten to Kis yet, so he headed for the door. A staffer pulled him back.
Words come out slower with his Southern drawl, but when Kisner talks, it’s quick, in the snappy way. And now we know he’s not much for standing around either. So let’s get started. Don’t blink.
We’ll begin at the top, and how he got here this week. Things will loosely flow from there, we think. Even how Kisner found out he made the team is worth a yarn. The questions were simple: Who told him, and what were his emotions like.
“I actually reached out to [captain] Davis [Love] and asked him if I need to practice or not during the Tour Championship because I was probably going to hang them up for a while,” Kisner began. “So he told me to stay sharp.
“We talked about every day that week, and then Sunday he kept calling me and then not saying anything, and I thought that was pretty odd. Finally he called me, and he was like, all right, I can’t stand it anymore. You’re on the team.”
“He kept calling you and saying nothing?”
“Yeah, we were just chatting about random stuff. He’s like, all right, I’ll talk to you later. I’m like what is going on with this? About 3:30 that afternoon, he let me know.”
“Do you think he was messing with you?“
“I don’t know if he was waiting on the Tour Championship to be over, or I don’t know what his thing was. I think probably that. Then he just couldn’t stand it anymore.”
“What were you going to do if you shut it down?”
“Hang out, hunt, fish, take some time off. Try to gain some weight. I lose a bunch of weight during the season. Then I come out here and sweat like crazy and lose it all again.”
With Kisner, there’s a conflict when it comes to these team events. On one hand, you can claim that he’s a match-play star — he’s won a WGC-Match Play title and finished second twice, including last year. And as you know, or we’ll find out over the course of these paragraphs, he’s a firecracker, a team player, a bust-your-golf-balls guy. All nice qualities. But this is just the second time he’s made a team (the 2017 Presidents Cup; never a Ryder Cup). You see, he’s also …
Short. On last season’s Tour driving chart, he was 171st, out of 193 players, and these tracks are long.
And he’s older. Team USA is youthful, and, at 38, Kisner is the oldest player, by three years.
Kisner freely admits he was called on only after Will Zalatoris injured himself last month. But he’s here. And here’s the thing with talkers. Talkers tend to be talked back to. Everything is in play, too.
Like … being short. Justin Thomas had cracked during a practice round that he couldn’t cover 243 yards.
Then there is his age. If you’re 38 or over yourself, none of this is meant as a cut at you. Just Kisner.
Even Cam Young, as reserved as they come, though also young (25), got into the mix.
“Yeah, you know, he’s my elder so I try to be respectful,” he said. “I don’t think that sentiment is shared by a lot of the other guys. He gives as much as he takes, though, so I’m not worried about him.”
This is true. Let’s start picking off targets one by one.
The age comments?
“They are relentless on that,” Kisner said. “I think that’s the only thing they have on me because I’m firing at them nonstop. So it’s grandpa or pops all the time and how short I hit it. Everybody here is a frickin’ bomber. So they all laugh at that.”
The distance comments? Kisner gets it. In fact, he even had a line a short while back ago about having no chance at behemoth courses like Bethpage Black — and playing anyway “because they give away a lot of money for 20th.” He’s rationalized match play, too.
Pick your cliche here. Slow and steady. (Though maybe it’s short and steady, in this case.) Keep chipping away. (Literally, in this case.) It’s that.
That’s some kind of gamesmanship.
“It’s really annoying when a guy is way behind you and then tapping in in front of you,” he said. “It gets old quickly. In a match-play format, I love being back there and hitting shots that they are not expecting. That’s what kills your mentality in match play. Hopefully I can do that a lot.”
“So there’s strength in being the first one to hit an approach?“
“Yeah, and when you see a guy back there, like I said, 230 into 18, probably not expecting me to hit a great shot there,” Kisner continued. “I wouldn’t if I was up there with a 6-iron. Those are the things that you can really needle guys with.”
Got time for a few more? Good. Kisner’s not done. In respect to him, we’ll go at it rapid-fire style.
Phil Mickelson? At the 2017 Presidents Cup, he played with the six-time major champ in three matches, winning two and tying another.
“Man, his preparation is pretty intense. Find out how crazy a person he really is, probably the first thing I learned. All the things he told me throughout.
“One of my favorite stories was the first couple holes, we played alternate shot, I left a few like 30-foot birdie putts short in the gimme range, and he came up to me and said, stop doing that. You can hit them as hard as you want to, I guarantee you I’ll make every one of them coming back. Phil being Phil in the most Phil way.”
Jordan Spieth? The line came here after a reporter asked Kisner how he would build his ideal player based on the 12 U.S. team members and wondered whom he would pick as his putter.
“I always take Jordan Spieth because he always pulls something out of his ass, for lack of a better word.”
College football? What you should know here is that Kisner is a Georgia Bulldog fan.
“We’re all talking about the lines this week. We watched football all night Monday night. Got some good games Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
“In ’17 I asked to sit out in the afternoon because Georgia played Tennessee. Strick [captain Steve Stricker] is like seriously? I’m like, yeah, man, that’s my squad.”
“I mean, it’s Tennessee. Do you really need to see it?”
“Tennessee is good this year. Don’t sleep on them. They’re going to whup your Gators this weekend.”
“I’m a Penn State guy.”
“You live in Gainesville. Penn State ain’t much either.”
Two more. They’re good.
Jay Monahan? For background here, the Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the PGA Tour’s commissioner’s use of a private jet.
“I feel terrible for him for that. That article about him flying around on a private jet for free, it’s awful. I saw him last night, he said, yeah, I’ve just been flying around, hanging out, vacationing all year on my private jet.”
Adam Scott? A reporter had asked if there were an International Team player he’d want to play most.
“You’ve got to beat Adam Scott. He’s so damn good looking. You’ve got to beat him up and then tell everybody how much better looking you are than he is.”
“Jason Dufner used to say he didn’t want to play him because he couldn’t beat him because he was too good looking.”
“But then maybe all the hot chicks are watching your group.”
“You know what happens then, they send Camilo over. [Assistant captain Camilo Villegas.] If it’s Adam and Camilo, you’ve got no chance.”
“We want to bring all the good looking girls to our group. We don’t care. We’re a welcoming party.”
And then Kisner’s time was up, for good this time. Of course, this stand-up act is never over.
He has some golf to play still.