First major victory eludes Kevin Kisner, Hideki Matsuyama at PGA Championshp
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kevin Kisner and Hideki Matsuyama spent a lot of time atop the leaderboard at the PGA Championship.
Just not when it mattered most.
Kisner, who led or shared the lead after each of the first three rounds, wound up in in a tie for seventh place. Matsuyama finished one stroke better than Kisner, in a tie for fifth place, after sharing the 36-hole lead and starting the final round one stroke back.
"The last major of the year, and I was in contention," Matsuyama said through an interpreter. "All I can do is just try harder next time."
Kisner shot a 3-over 74 on Sunday and finished four strokes behind winner Justin Thomas. Matsuyama shot 72 in the final round and finished at 5 under for the tournament.
The leaderboard was full of players who have never won a major championship — of the top eight finishers, only Louis Oosthuizen arrived at Quail Hollow Club with one — so it seemed inevitable that someone would claim one for the first time.
Kisner and Matsuyama hoped it would be them. Especially at the point in the round when they both were part of a five-way tie for first along with Thomas, Francesco Molinari and Chris Stroud.
"I really liked the way I started out, hitting the ball solid and giving myself a lot of good looks," Kisner said. "Just not making the putts that I need to make to win major championships."
Kisner missed six putts inside of 15 feet — three from 10 feet or closer — during his final round.
"I didn't make the putts that I'd been making the first two days over the weekend," he said. "A lot of misses inside of 10 feet, and at some point the length is going to catch up with me and guys that hit it 30 (yards) by me are going to have an advantage if I'm not making the putts inside of 10 feet."
Kisner was humming right along , shooting 67s in each of his first two rounds. Matsuyama followed a first-round 70 with a 64, joining Kisner in the lead at 8 under — the first time for either player to be atop the leaderboard after any round of a major.
Kisner's 72 in the third round was good enough to give him a one-stroke lead entering the final day, though he sensed — rightfully — that his pursuers were gaining on him.
And when he found trouble on the seventh hole, they caught him.
His fade on the par-5 hit the water, and after he two-putted for a bogey, he found himself at 6 under and trailing for the first time since Thursday afternoon, having been passed by Matsuyama.
The Japanese star fell off the pace during a turbulent back nine that included five bogeys — including one on the 16th in which his par putt lipped off the left edge of the cup. That dropped him two strokes behind Thomas.
"The course played tough," Matsuyama said. "The pins were receptive, though, more than yesterday. I was just disappointed the way I played."
Quail Hollow's fabled Green Mile three-hole finishing stretch also gave Kisner trouble in each of his final two cracks at it.
He had two double bogeys, two bogeys and two pars on Saturday and Sunday after playing it at a combined 1 under during the first two rounds.
"That's not going to be fun to look at," Kisner said. "I thought I had to get a 10 (under) starting the day to win, and that was about right, so I had every opportunity. I just didn't finish it off."