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Austin, Texas — Kevin Kisner can’t think of another tournament that made him grind so hard.

He began the Dell Technologies Match Play with a loss in the opening round. He had to play 120 holes over five days. Three matches were decided on the 18th hole. He had to play three sudden-death playoff holes just to get to the weekend. And on Sunday morning, he faced a cold wind that made temperatures feel like the upper 30s.

It all felt worth it when he made good on his second try at winning golf’s most unpredictable tournament.

Kisner outlasted British Open champion Francesco Molinari in the semifinals, and then let Matt Kuchar make the untimely mistakes Sunday afternoon until Kisner closed him out with a 20-foot putt for a 3-and-2 victory.

“Grueling, not only from the mental side, but the physical side,” Kisner said. “A lot of golf and a lot of stressful holes and stressful putts.”

But then, that’s how he got here in the first place.

Kisner, who won $1,745,000 for his first World Golf Championships title, recalls his father staking him $16,000 to see if he could make it as a pro golfer. He won his third tournament on the mini-tours, and when his bank account reached $40,000, he thought he was rich.

The lesson along the way: Make putts or lose money.

That’s what works at the Match Play, and he delivered enough key moments to capture the biggest win of his career.

“It was a long week. I prevailed. And I’m a world golf champion,” Kisner said.

He became the first player to win Match Play after losing in the championship match the previous year.

“If you’d have told me I’d be sitting here 10 years ago, I would probably have said you were crazy,” Kisner said. “I think it shows in my grind. That’s what I do. I’ve had ups and downs throughout it. I’ve won on every tour, every level. And had tremendous downfalls on every tour and every level. So I pride myself in the way I pick myself up and keep grinding.”

Last year wasn’t close, as Bubba Watson raced out to a big lead and ended the match on the 12th hole. Kisner never trailed against Kuchar, which didn’t make it any easier. Kuchar had a 12-foot putt to win his second straight hole and tie the match on No. 10, with momentum sure to follow.

He missed, and on his next swing, Kuchar put his tee shot in the water on the par-3 11th.

Kisner, equipped with a 2-up lead, took it from there. He made putts from 6 feet and 4 feet to halve holes, and seized control on the 15th when Kuchar’s chip was too strong and led to another lost hole.

“It’s tough to maintain the high level of play the entire tournament,” Kuchar said. “You hope to do it and I feel like I’ve kind of built a game that I could rely on playing some good, steady golf. But I gave too many holes away. I knew against Kisner I couldn’t do it, and he just plodded along … and let me make mistakes. And that was good playing by Kevin.”

Kisner became the first player to win the Match Play with a loss during the round-robin portion, which began in 2015. That felt like an eternity ago when he posed in front of the trophy, the sixth straight victory for an American in these World Golf Championships.

Kisner first had to get past British Open champion Francesco Molinari, so dominant that he had never played the 18th hole in five previous matches this week. Molinari birdied the 16th and 17th holes to tie the match, but on the 18th, the Italian three-putted from 25 feet above the hole as Kisner advanced.

Kuchar, who won the Match Play in 2013, had to beat Lucas Bjerregaard in the semifinals in another match that went the distance. Bjerregaard, who knocked out Tiger Woods in the quarterfinals with clutch shots down the stretch, made a 10-footer on the 17th to stay alive, but he couldn’t come up with the birdie he needed on the 18th.

Molinari beat Bjerregaard in the consolation match, which was worth $712,000. Bjerregaard earned $574,000 for finishing fourth.

No matter the format, what hasn’t changed about Match Play is only one guy leaves happy.

Molinari described it as “bittersweet” after winning the consolation match, still thinking about the bogey that cost him the match against Kisner. Bjerregaard, who made a name for himself that remained tough for the Texas crowd to pronounce, left Austin as the 27-year-old Dane who took down Woods.

But he could only think of putts he couldn’t make in either match.

“I can’t stand here and say it’s been a bad week,” Bjerregaard said. “We were 64 and I’m in the last four. But to lose twice in a day, that hurts.”

Kisner was all smiles with a week that tested him every match except for his 6-and-5 win over Li Haotong during group play. Under the circumstances, he played his best golf against Molinari, and he played good enough against Kuchar.

“I just did what I needed to do,” Kisner said.

PGA Tour

Graeme McDowell won the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship for his first PGA Tour title since November 2015, closing with a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory over Chris Stroud and Mackenzie Hughes.

“This is big. This is big. … It’s been a rough few years,” said McDowell, the 39-year-old major champion from Northern Ireland.

He didn’t get an automatic Masters spot with the victory because the event was played opposite the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.

McDowell took the lead from Stroud with a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th and closed with a bogey – lagging a 30-foot par putt to inches – on the par-4 18th. Stroud bogeyed the final two holes in a 69. Hughes also closed with a bogey for a 66.

McDowell set up the two-stroke swing on 17 with a 6-iron shot.

McDowell finished at 18-under 270, rebounding from an opening 73 with consecutive 64s to take a one-stroke lead over Stroud into the final round. The 2010 U.S. Open champion, McDowell won his fourth PGA Tour title.

Stroud faltered after birdieing the par-5 14th and par-4 15th to take the lead.

Jonathan Byrd (66) was fourth at 16 under, and Chip McDaniel (63) and Kelly Kraft (68) followed at 15 under.

Second-round leader Sungjae Im, likely needing a victory to get into the top 50 in the world and earn a Masters spot, had a 71 to tie for seventh at 14 under. Joey Garber (Petoskey) closed with a 71 and finished tied for 52nd, 13 shots off the pace.

Tour Champions

Scott Parel made a 12-foot par putt to match Kevin Sutherland on the fifth hole of a playoff before play was suspended because of darkness in the PGA Tour Champions’ Rapiscan Systems Classic.

They will finish Monday morning after a long cold day at Fallen Oak.

Sutherland, the second-round leader, missed a 2-foot par putt on the second extra hole — the third straight hole he missed putts for the victory. He failed to make a birdie in all 23 holes, closing with a 3-over 75 to match Parel at 7 under.

Parel made an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th in regulation for a 69.

Sutherland had his best chance for birdie on 18 in regulation, but his 6-footer went left. He missed a 15-footer on 18 to open the playoff.

They played the 18th four times in the playoff.

After playing the four par-5 holes in 5 under with an eagle and three birdies in an opening 65, the 54-year-old Sutherland was 3 over on the long holes in the second and third rounds.

Billy Andrade shot a 71 to finish a stroke out of the playoff, three-putting the 18th for his second bogey in the last three holes. He birdied Nos. 12, 14 and 15 to take the lead at 9 under before faltering.

Marco Dawson was fourth at 5 under after a 74. Bernard Langer (69), 2018 winner Steve Stricker (69) and Wes Short Jr. (69) were 4 under.

Fred Couples closed with a 77 to drop into a tie for 17th at even par. Tom Gillis (Lake Orion) closed with a 73 and finished tied for 22nd, eight shots off the lead.

Gary Nicklaus, the son of 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus, shot 81 to tie for last at 20 over. He played on a sponsor exemption.

LPGA

Nasa Hataoka won the Kia Classic at Aviara Golf Club for her third victory in her last 16 LPGA Tour starts.

The 20-year-old Japanese player closed with a 5-under 67 for a three-stroke victory over playing partner Inbee Park, top-ranked Sung Hyun Park, Jin Young Ko, Azahara Munoz and Danielle Kang.

Hataoka shot a 64 on Saturday to pull within a stroke of Inbee Park entering the final round in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week.

Hataoka finished at 18-under 270. She won the NW Arkansas Championship and Japan Classic last year.

Winless in 12 months, Inbee Park had a 71 to miss a chance for her 20th LPGA Tour victory. Sung Hyun Park also shot 71, Ko and Kang had 65s, and Munoz a 68. Ko won the Founders Cup last week in Phoenix.
 

European Tour

Stephen Gallacher birdied three of his last four holes in a stunning comeback to win Indian Open.

Gallacher finished on a 9-under-par 279 to clinch the title, one shot ahead of Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura.

Gallacher held a share of the first-round lead before second-round 74 saw him slip away.

And the Scot’s chances appeared slim when he made a quadruple bogey eight on the seventh hole. But Gallacher’s late recovery saw him post a final round of 71 to win his first title since 2014.

American Julian Suri led by three strokes after 12 holes but his quadruple bogey on the 14th saw him slip back and finish alongside South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout on 6-under 282 in a share of fourth place.
 

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