What makes major championships so compelling and what makes winning them so precious is the fact that it hurts like crazy to lose them. Take it from anyone who had a share or a sniff of the lead Sunday, thinking this could be the day to change their lives.
The point is, you need a thick skin and a short memory in the pro golf business. You need to tell yourself that next time will be different, knowing full well there might never be a next time.
“I’ll be excited to get back. I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” said Kevin Kisner, who held or shared the lead all week until he put a 3-iron shot in the drink on No. 7 Sunday. He made double-bogey 6 there and — although he later briefly got into a tie with eventual champion Justin Thomas — lost his hold on the PGA Championship.
“Oh, man, No. 7 is going to haunt me. I actually went back for one more club and got too greedy with it,” Kisner said after finishing tied for seventh at 4 under, four shots back. “That’s one of the holes I have to make 4 on to compete. To walk away with a 6 was painful.”
Everyone except Thomas had a similar lament, at least on the inside. Hideki Matsuyama had perhaps the most on his shoulders, knowing that a nation at home was hungry to see a Japanese player finally win a men’s major. But he made three bogeys in a row and five on the back nine. “I was just disappointed in the way I played,” he said. “All I can do is just try harder next time.”
There was unlikely contender Chris Stroud, who never won in his first 289 PGA Tour events until the previous Sunday, when he took a playoff in Reno, Nevada, and earned a last-second invitation here. He was tied for first at the turn but tumbled to a tie for ninth. Patrick Reed, a Ryder Cup star, made a run at winning his first major title but stalled two strokes short.
The ending was particularly tough on Kisner, whose parents were born in this town, whose 93-year-old grandmother still lives here and whose relatives were among the charter members of Quail Hollow Club. Many friends drove up from his hometown of Aiken, South Carolina, hoping to share the celebration.
“I was feeling good,’’ Kisner said. “I really liked the way I started out, hitting the ball solid and giving myself a lot of looks. Just not making the putts I need to win major championships.”
What he got was another opportunity to flex his resilience. Kisner once missed a 12-foot putt on the last hole of Q School to miss getting his PGA Tour card. Before he won on tour for the first time, he lost three playoffs. He since has won twice.
He knows how to handle stuff like this.
“Probably my upbringing. I have strong parents,” he said. “They taught me about being a good person and believing in yourself. And that to be the best, you’ve got to work hard.”
Plus, he has a good heart. After winning at Colonial this year, he bought a Ford F-150 pickup for his caddie, East Hampton native Duane Bock. “He called me up and said come get it. I went down to Aiken and picked it up,” Bock said. “That was a nice surprise. He’s very generous. After eight years of working for him, that was my bonus.”
Kisner was gracious, saying the competition still was fun despite the outcome, joking that 20-somethings such as Thomas never fail to remind him that Kisner is 10 years older than they are. You get the feeling he can’t wait for the next time he has a 3-iron in his hands with a major on the line.
“It was his first time — last group, two days in a row at a major,” Bock said. “He’ll be back.”