Kisner beats Kuchar to win WGC-Dell Match Play
A year after he finished runner-up to Bubba Watson, Kevin Kisner claimed his first World Golf Championship title at the WGC Dell-Match play with a 3&2 victory over Matt Kuchar.
Kisner closed out the match in style, holing a 20-footer for birdie on the 16th green at Austin GC in Texas to become the first player to win the Match Play after losing a match during group play, which was introduced in 2015.
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“It was a long week. I prevailed. And I’m a world golf champion,” Kisner said after his victory, before alluding to what it means for the rest of his season.
“A win is always huge. That’s what we play for, is wins and trophies. But we want to be in that FedExCup playoffs. We want to have a chance in Atlanta to win the FedExCup. And we’re always working the entire year to see where it goes. And it’s going to do a huge deal for the rest of my season to have a chance in Atlanta, and to hopefully play on Tiger’s team in Australia.”
Kisner started off the week with a loss to Ian Poulter on the 18th hole during the first round of group play, and faced him once more in a play-off after taking out Tony Finau and Keith Mitchell to decide which player would prevail to the round of 16. The eventual winner triumphed in sudden death, and it was a result that Kisner put down as a pivotal moment for him in the tournament.
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“I told the guys earlier that losing to Poulter put me behind the 8 ball huge, I felt like. And then obviously meeting him on the first tee in the playoff, winning that playoff I felt catapulted me to having a chance to win the golf tournament. That’s when I finally felt like we can do it.”
From there, Kisner eased to a 6&5 win over Haotong Li, and set up a semi-final showdown against Francesco Molinari after taking out Louis Oosthuizen 2&1 in the quaters.
Molinari, who had been the most dominant player over the contest until that point, was arguably the favourite, but it was Kisner who came out on top. The 45th seed had converted a stellar second shot in to the par-four 1st for birdie to move one ahead, although Molinari was quick to overturn that with wins on the next two holes. It was a well contested tussle, but Kisner moved ahead once more on the 12th, and by the 14th his lead was 2up. In the end, Molinari would peg him back to all-square heading down 18, and aa par would be enough for Kisner to join Matt Kuchar in the final.
In the unusually cold conditions in Austin, Kisner never trailed. He moved ahead with a birdie on the 1st and scrambled to stay ahead on the second as Kuchar three-putted from 15 feet.
By the fifth the match was level, but Kisner pulled away once more with a birdie on the par-five sixth and a par on the seventh to gain a two-hole advantage, but he handed one back with a three-putt for bogey on the ninth.
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Uncharacteristic mistakes from Kuchar saw him fritter away chances: He missed a 12-footer on the 10th to get the match back to all-square, and put his next tee shot in to the water.
The duo matched birdies on the 12th and pars on the next two holes, before Kisner increased his advantage to 3up as Kuchar missed a 12 footer for par on the 15th.
With work to do, Kuchar looked to have the advantage after hitting his second to 20 feet on the par-five 16th as Kisner laid up of the green and hit his third to a similar distance. It would end up being a tap-in birdie for Kuchar, but Kisner ended up crushing any hopes that would be good enough to extend the match as he made his 20 footer for birdie, and victory.
“I don’t think I played my best all week, really,” Kisner said of his victory. “I don’t think you really — it’s so hard to tell because you’re not really playing for a score, you’re playing more to situational golf in match play than you are trying to go shoot 68 or 9 or 7 or whatever.
“I feel like I just did what I needed to do. I know Matt didn’t play well today. Him making only two birdies the entire day is unlike him, and he gave more bogeys than I’ve ever seen. I thought it would be a big par and birdie-fest out there.
“But the golf course is hard and it’s a long week. A couple of bounces in the wrong section of the greens, and it’s a difficult two-putt for par.”
Francesco Molinari, who was beaten by Kisner in the semi-final, took out Lucas Bjerregaard for third place with a 4&2 win.
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3&2 | Kevin Kisner vs Matt Kuchar
Francesco Molinari vs. Kevin Kisner | 1UP
2&1 | Kevin Kisner vs. Louis Oosthuizen
Round of 16:
Haotong Li vs. Kevin Kisner | 6&5
2UP | Ian Poulter vs. Kevin Kisner
Tony Finau vs. Kevin Kisner | 2UP
2&1 | Kevin Kisner vs. Keith Mitchell