Sea Island, Georgia
THE MODERATOR: We’d like to welcome Kevin Kisner into the interview room, the winner of the 2015 RSM Classic. Kevin, first of all, you took all the drama away on that front nine. If you can just comment on what was a phenomenal day.
KEVIN KISNER: There was plenty of drama for me out there. No, I just wanted to get off to a great start and try to pull away and increase that lead a little bit and make me feel a little more comfortable.
I starting making putts on the front nine and it started going in from everywhere, and that’s when you know you got to going on.
It was really nice to play the back nine with that much of a lead and that wind blowing and not making it that easy.
I just played conservative and tried to make a bunch of pars and hit the greens, and I was able to do that.
THE MODERATOR: And it was an 18th green that you have some bad memories on, but not today.
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, I told my caddie, I said, There is no lead big enough. I’ve lost two of ’em on this hole before.
It was a nice way to finish. I just hammered that drive down there on 18. A lot easier hole down there with a 9-iron in your hand.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Let’s go right into questions.
Q. I know we’ve asked you this a thousand times, but now that you have the trophy, was there ever a time over the course of this year when you’ve come so close that you asked, Is my time going to come?
KEVIN KISNER: No. Never crossed my mind, because in my previous four years on tour I never felt like I had the game to win. I wasn’t playing well enough to win. When I did finish up near the lead it was kind of back door or shoot pretty well on Sunday to get up there.
This year I saw the strides where I’m leading coming into Saturday or taking the lead early in the week or having a chance on Sunday. I knew if I kept playing that way I was going to win one sooner or later.
Q. Yesterday you said you wanted to get to 20- or 21-under for the finish today. When you got there on No. 9…
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, that was pretty quick.
Q. How did your mindset change on the back nine?
KEVIN KISNER: I told my caddie I want to hit all nine greens on that back nine. I felt like if I hit all nine greens that I couldn’t lose or somebody had to shoot something really low.
I did it on the first six, seven holes. I hit the ball fantastic. Hit great shots coming down the stretch again. Just a great way to cap it off.
Q. Where did you blow it on 18? Was this a college thing?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah. SEC Championship. I think I had a one-shot lead or tied two years out of four and lost both times.
One year I three-putted 18 to lose by one, I think.
Q. Nice going.
KEVIN KISNER: What did he say? Nice going. (Laughter.)
Q. If there was possibly a turning point today, I would’ve thought 7, when your ball is in a bush. Can you tell us exactly what you saw in there? What kind of shot you had?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, I had nothing. My caddie said, What are you thinking? I said, I have no idea. I hit a beautiful 3-wood. If it’s five more feet to the left I got an easy eagle putt, and there I am looking and it’s got a wall of a bush one foot in front of my ball.
I just tried to hit a big bunker shot and didn’t work out very well. At least it got out of there. I felt like that was a huge momentum putt. G-Mac is standing there with a 20-footer, 18-footer for birdie, missed, then I make it, and then Chappy makes bogey.
So it was a huge momentum for me. Birdieing that next hole just kind of catapulted those next two.
Q. Guys hit shots like you did on 11 all the time, and when you hit one that good and it hits the pin, do you almost say to yourself, I don’t have to be that accurate, do I?
KEVIN KISNER: (Laughing.) That was a great shot. Perfect number. I just had like five yards longer than that on 10 and came up just short. I knew it was a perfect shot to come in there.
When it hit the pin it sounded like — we couldn’t see it from the fairway, but it sounded like it bounced into the pin. I was thinking it was going to be close, and when I walked around the corner and saw that, I knew I hit it on the fly, but, shoot I would’ve taken 15 feet from the fairway and never hit it.
Q. A lot of guys who have some close calls with contending in tournaments and everything say they learn something from each one of those. How much did the PLAYERS Championship experience factor into what you’ve been able to build to and accomplish today?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, I would say not only this year, but my entire career I feel like it’s been a learning process. I don’t feel like I’ve ever reached my full potential and played as well as I could have until these last few months.
Each experience on tour, you know, that’s why I think that’s you don’t see many rookies do great out here. You got to feel like you belong or you’ll get run over.
That sense of belonging and having a chance to win changes your outlook on yourself and your game on the PGA TOUR.
Q. Now that you’ve finally got a win, what does it feel like? And what was the moment like when your wife and daughter walked up?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, that was the coolest moment I’ve ever had having my daughter run up the hill to me her clapping her hands and saying, “Cheese” to the cameras. That was pretty cool.
I said to my caddie on that last three-footer, if this one gets to the hole it’s a mistake. It hit the back of the hole and I said, Man, I killed it.
What a cool experience and to be here and a special place to win.
Q. 7th hole Graeme McDowell hit your mother with his tee shot. What did he say to you and what did you say to him?
KEVIN KISNER: He said I need to have a talk with her. She kicked it back in the fairway. He said, I would’ve told her to kick it over there in the bushes.
No, I didn’t even know that. I went to use the restroom and came back out and he was in the fairway and I didn’t I think anything of it.
He came over and told me that, and I went over and said, Next time aim you’re foot towards those bushes over there.
Q. Kiz, three-shot lead. Going for your first win can sometimes be one of the hardest things of all. Curious, in the moments getting to the first tee, was it hard to keep your mind from thinking about more what can go wrong?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah. That was the hardest thing I had to deal with all day. I hadn’t been in that position with that big of a lead. I was as jumpy or ready to go today as I can recall.
You know, only thing you can do is win or fail in that position. Hard to keep yourself off not thinking what if it doesn’t work out. So I just wanted to go out and make birdies early and try to keep playing the way I was playing.
Those birdies on 8 and 9 pretty much calmed me down for the back nine.
Q. (No microphone.)
KEVIN KISNER: Club? I had like an 80-yard yard lob wedge on 8 and 9-iron on 9.
Q. With all the close calls you have had, did you sort of imagine that your first win would be a little closer, maybe more stressful down the stretch?
KEVIN KISNER: I think all those close calls taught me to never give up and keep grinding. I kept saying, There is no lead big enough for me coming down the last hole. I want it to 10 if I can get it to 10. 5 was pretty nice. Especially after I hit the tee ball, I knew I could finish it from there.
Q. What were the nerves like?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, I wasn’t like nervous. I was just jumpy and wanted to go get it going. If I come out with a three-shot lead and stall and make a bunch of pars early, next thing you know we’ll be tied. They’re going to make birdies early.
Once I made the birdie on 2, that was clutch. That kind of got it going.
Then holed the nice one on 4, and I felt pretty good from there out.
Q. Talk about how special it was when a bunch of Bulldogs were following you in. How special is it for you that you won in the state of Georgia and you’re now a part of that prestigious alumni, part of that group?
KEVIN KISNER: I don’t know if I could pick a better place to win for my foist time. I am sure a major would’ve been awesome. But, I mean, Sea Island has always been special to me. I lived here for a year right out of college. I played here all four years in college for the SEC Championship. This is where we’ve come to vacation many times.
Sea island is just a special place to me.
Q. What’s the best thing winning will do for you?
KEVIN KISNER: I’m not sure, because it wasn’t like finishing second. I was dejected with myself. I felt good about my game and the way I was playing, the way I handled it down the stretch. This is just another notch in the confidence and off we go.
Hopefully the floodgates are open and this just continues to win more like we’ve seen it do with other players.
Q. You ended last year at No. 236 in the world. Up to No. 17. Do you look at yourself as a top 20 player? Not to pull a Patrick Reed on you.
KEVIN KISNER: Top 5, I thought.
Q. Well, lowering the bar a little bit for you. Seriously, do you feel like a top 20 player?
KEVIN KISNER: If I play the way I have since Hilton Head I feel like a top 20 player, absolutely.
Q. Talk about Augusta. Have you gotten a chance to play there? How many times you been there? Obligatory, what’s it going to be like being there as competitor now?
KEVIN KISNER: I’ve played there numerous times growing up in Aiken 25 minutes away. Played every year in college and been back a handful of times since.
It’s the most special place to ever go. I had a conversation with my team, and I said, I think that’s the only tee shot, first tee, I’ll be super nervous and not be sure I’ll be able to draw it back is that first round on Thursday.
Q. Best score there?
KEVIN KISNER: I think I shot 68 with my dad last winter. That was probably pretty good.
Q. I know you had quite the contingency here. This is kind of a home away from home for you for the time being. But what was it like for you to win here – not that it would have been any less satisfying overseas – but to have all the family and friends here?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, it was cool. I notice out there I had a bunch people that drove in today. I probably have 40, 50 people that all came to the tournament. I couldn’t write it up to be a better place to win. I mean, to have all the people here and to perform down the stretch the way I did, I couldn’t write it up any better than that.
Q. Clubs on No. 2? What did you hit there?
KEVIN KISNER: 8-iron.
Q. When you talk about the special place of Sea Island, given the year and the number of chances you gave yourself, how cool is it to be the last round of the year?
KEVIN KISNER: Yeah, I thought about that on the green. What a way to cap it off, and I don’t have to go get on an airplane or drive forever. I told Davis this is the coolest win ever on the last gree. We don’t have to rush to travel out of here. I get to just got hang out with my friends and do what I want to do.
What a way to end the year. By far the greatest year of my live golf-wise. To finish it that way, I couldn’t write it up any better.
Q. Any part of your depressed that your off-season just got cut short by one week?
KEVIN KISNER: No. I’ll be happy to fly to Maui. I do get to play this year, right?
THE MODERATOR: You do, yes.
KEVIN KISNER: Sweet. I didn’t know if I had to wait a hole ‘nother year.