Kevin Kisner takes aim at Tour Championship success
ATLANTA, Ga. -- With an opportunity to win $10 million on the table this week, Kevin Kisner has a lot to play for at East Lake.
But the money isn't the first thing Kisner thinks about should he win the Tour Championship.
LEADERBOARD: Tour Championship
"Hopefully we can get some Dogs out there barking and get rid of that Gator chomp that happened on the 18th green last year," Kisner said.
The former Georgia All-American was referring to ex-Florida Gator Billy Horschel's antics after winning last year's FedEx Cup in the heart of Bulldog country. It was not an image Kisner wants repeated -- and Horschel didn't make the top 30 to get a chance.
"He can watch me bark," the Aiken resident said.
BACKGROUND: Spieth photobombs fans at Tour Championship
Unlike many of the stars in the 29-man field, Kisner has almost no experience at East Lake. The only time he'd ever been to the club before Tuesday was a brief recruiting visit to Georgia Tech.
"Just for lunch. Didn't even play," he said. "First time playing any golf here was (Tuesday). But I love it. It fits my eye."
It will take a series of results for Kisner to win the FedEx Cup. He has to win the tournament first. Then Jason Day can't finished better than tied for 11th, Jordan Spieth must finish fifth or worse, Rickie Fowler in a three-way tie for third or worse, Henrik
Stenson third or worse and Bubba Watson no better than a three-way tie for second.
Which is more unlikely -- Kisner winning his first PGA Tour event or Day finishing worse than 40 percent of the field?
"Probably him finishing outside the top 11," Kisner said. "Odds wise, you would think this would be the easiest tournament to win all year but then you have the 29 best players in the world playing the way they're playing right now."
Kisner is already a winner just getting here. The biggest prize associated with reaching the Tour Championship is being exempted into the majors next season plus the World Golf Championship at Doral.
For Kisner, that means finally playing in the Masters Tournament where he has attended more times than he can remember going back to when he was a kid in Aiken.
"So I grew up right in the middle of it, and I know how big it is," he said. "Just excited to go play. ... So, I can't wait. Looking forward to getting that invitation right around Christmas, that will be the coolest Christmas present."
As a qualifier, Kisner will get privileges to play Augusta National in preparation before the Masters. Living so close, he said he might be waiting outside the gate as soon as the club's season-opening jamboree ends in October.
"Probably going to get sick of me around there before the tournament," Kisner said. "Probably going to have to tell me I've come enough and my preparation ought to be done."
Reaching the Masters is an achievement Kisner doesn't take for granted. Over the past few years he's watched many of his former teammates and fellow alums at Georgia compete in his own backyard, and he didn't begrudge their opportunities.
"No, because they earned it," he said. "The coolest thing about this game is you get what you pay for. ... They outplayed me and so they earned the spot and now I've earned my spot it's time for me to go show them what I have."
Prior to his breakthrough 2015 season that included three playoff appearances and nearly $3.5 million in earnings, Kisner wondered if he'd ever get to realize his Augusta dreams.
"Yeah, when I was struggling out here to even make a cut there was a lot of doubt that I would ever make it there," he said. "I have seen my game progress in the last two years and I played (Augusta) last winter a couple times and shot some good scores with just friends that are members and I was like, 'My game's improving, I could actually play this course.'"
Kisner played Augusta National two weeks before last year's Masters with Charley Hoffman, who tied for ninth in the Masters after starting Sunday in fourth place. Kisner "shot a little 68 and took some cash off him."
"When I was in college I thought there was no way I could compete in the Masters, it was so hard," Kisner said. "And it's cool to see my game progress and notice that, yeah, I can play in this tournament and I can compete. So, I'm looking forward to that."
Before April, Kisner would like to get that elusive first victory. He'd be thrilled if it came this week even if he didn't win the $10 million bonus.
"I will be happy to win anywhere, anytime, anyplace," he said.
Should $10 million (plus a five-year PGA Tour exemption) come with it, what would he do with it all?
"I mean, who would know what to do with 10 million bucks?" he said. "Might be able to retire in Aiken, South Carolina. I would have no idea, but it would be a good problem to have and I could find something to do."