Sunday's roundup: Kisner’s eagle on 18 forces Zurich playoff
Avondale, La. — Kevin Kisner deprived the die-hard fans around the rain-soaked 18th hole from seeing a winner in the Zurich Classic’s new team format as darkness fell Sunday night.
Not that anyone other than Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith seemed to mind.
Kisner chipped in for eagle from nearly 95 feet, lifting himself and teammate Scott Brown into a Monday playoff with Blixt and Smith.
“We knew we had to have it,” Kisner said. “I knew (Blixt and Smith) were going to make birdie. All I was trying to do was make sure I didn’t leave it short.”
Kisner’s clutch chip skipped on the green and hit the pin before dropping in, whipping the crowd around the final green into a frenzy while Kisner waved both arms in celebration.
“I knew I hit it a little too hard when I touched it, but I loved the line, and when it hit the flag, I said, ‘Just please don’t come out of there,’” Kisner recalled. “It’s just one of those shots that you dream about.”
It also forced the 23-year-old Smith to make a 1½-foot birdie putt to remain in contention for his maiden PGA Tour victory.
“It was tough, but we fought well on the back nine,” Smith said.
Kisner and Brown shot a 12-under 60 in best-ball play, and Blixt and Smith had a 64 to finish at 27 under at the TPC Louisiana in the PGA Tour’s first team event in 36 years. The score of 60 didn’t count as a course record, but it was two strokes better than any score posted when the Zurich was a traditional stroke-play event.
“I can’t say it’s another day, but you’ve got to go home, recharge, and pretty much forget everything you’ve done the last four days and just go out and make a birdie or eagle or whatever to win it,” Blixt said. “You’ve got to expect the unexpected. I don’t know. We get another shot at it tomorrow, and we’ve just got to leave this behind.”
The round finished in barely playable darkness because of a more than six-hour delay cause by thunderstorms. Kisner said he could see the flag, but perhaps only because of light from a massive video board reflecting off a water hazard.
Blixt, a Swede, and Smith, an Australian, haven’t bogeyed a hole yet. They led after the second and third rounds, but had to overcome a remarkable surge by Brown and Kisner, who stormed into the lead with birdies on the first eight holes and 10 of their first 11.
Blixt made a 5-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and Smith did the same on 17th to put themselves back in the lead.
Smith then dropped a 57-yard approach on 18 within 2 feet, and they seemed to have the victory wrapped up. Instead, both teams will be back at it at 8 a.m. on the 18th hole to start the playoff.
Kisner and Brown each have one PGA Tour victory. The 33-year-old Blixt has won twice, but not since 2013.
Each player on the winning team will take home $1.02 million and earn 400 FedExCup points.
Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer combined to birdie seven of nine holes in the middle of their round to pull as close as three strokes back with three holes to play, but couldn’t quite overcome a deficit that had been as large as six strokes.
Speith’s 16-foot birdie attempt rolled around the lip of the cup and out on 16. That, combined with Spieth’s narrow miss from 3 feet on the 18th green Saturday, and Palmer’s two misses from within 3 feet in the third round, were shots that one of the favored pairs would have to regret in an otherwise strong, fourth-place performance.
Brown and Kisner led by two strokes after their birdie on the eighth hole and maintained that gap until Smith’s 34-foot putt on the undulating 12th green made it a one-stroke affair with six holes to play.
Kelly Kraft and Kevin Tway finished third at 23 under after Kraft followed up a 266-yard approach on 18 with a 22-foot eagle putt.
Brian Stuard (Jackson), who won the tournament last year when it was a stroke-play event, and Chris Stroud tied for 11th.
The tournament is the first team event on the PGA Tour since the Walt Disney World National Team Championship in 1981. The Zurich began with 80 two-player teams, with players choosing their teammates.
Players on each team alternated shots in the first and third rounds. In the second and final rounds, each player played their own balls and each team took the best score per hole. The playoff will be in the same format as the final round.
Hara Nomura two-putted for birdie on the sixth playoff hole for her third LPGA Tour victory after Cristie Kerr briefly took the lead on the 72nd hole in the Texas Shootout at Irving, Texas.
Nomura, who is from Japan but lives in Hawaii, also birdied the par-5 18th hole at the end of regulation to force the playoff after giving up the lead for the first time with a double bogey at No. 17.
Kerr and Nomura finished regulation at 3-under 281, then played the 518-yard 18th six more times. There were five matching pars before Nomura finally won nearly 7½ hours after starting her round, almost making an eagle before her tap-in and then the wait while Kerr’s 12-foot birdie chance slid left of the cup.
Kerr was trying to win consecutive tournaments. The American won in Hawaii two weeks ago, her 19th career victory coming nearly five months after knee surgery.
The LPGA Volvik Championship in Ann Arbor is May 22-28.