The irony isn’t lost on Kevin Kisner.
With the rain clearing out and temperatures expected to reach the low 70s in Aiken, Kisner is in Florida this week getting ready to return to action on the PGA Tour. He could have used that good weather in recent weeks when he took a five-week break.
The professional golfer had to improvise. With the help of Mark Swygert, superintendent at Palmetto Golf Club, Kisner set up a hitting bay in the maintenance shed on a recent cold and rainy day.
“I said to Mark, it’s 40 degrees and raining,” Kisner said last week. “I need to hit some balls.”
Despite the weather, Kisner doesn’t have much to complain about. He and wife Brittany recently welcomed the birth of their third child. Steven George, named for Kisner’s father, was born Feb. 4.
“I’m ready to get on the road and get some sleep,” Kisner said with a laugh. “No, it’s been a good stretch to be at home. Five weeks off. I’ve never taken that much time off. I’m using it as my offseason.”
Kisner, who celebrated his 37th birthday last week, has a busy stretch coming up. He will play four out of six events leading into the Masters Tournament, and then the three events following the year’s first major.
It all begins this week at the World Golf Championship event at The Concession in Bradenton, Fla. It will be his first time at the course, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. The name pays homage to a key moment at the 1969 Ryder Cup when Nicklaus conceded a short putt to Jacklin. That gesture of sportsmanship ensured that the U.S. and England would tie for the first time in Ryder Cup history.
“I heard it’s brutally hard,” Kisner said of the course. “I just went to Congaree (in Ridgeland, S.C.) and tried to prepare for it the last couple of days. It’s 7,800 yards and the same kind of setup. Hopefully that will help.”
Kisner missed the cut at the Masters in November, but he bounced right back to finish second the next week at The RSM Classic at Sea Island, Ga. He shot 63 in the final round but lost a playoff to Robert Streb.
“It’s so big to start the year well, knowing we were having a baby and I was going to take some time off,” he said. “Something like that sets up your year in the FedEx Cup race. If I just play like I’m supposed to I should be in position to have a great run in the playoffs.”
Kisner played twice on the Hawaii swing but never got into serious contention in either event. He then headed back to Aiken to wait the arrival of his new baby and gear up for some of his favorite events.
“I’m fortunate to get to the point in my career where I can pick where I play, and I really like the golf courses that are coming up,” Kisner said. “I feel I can compete at them. Obviously, I’ll be rusty as all get out, not playing in five weeks. And the weather we’ve had, the preparation hasn’t been the way I want it, but when I get rolling and play that many events in a row I start to play better.”
Kisner will compete in two World Golf Championships, The Players Championship and the Masters in the next two months. He will be the defending champion at the WGC-Match Play next month in Austin, Texas. Kisner defeated Matt Kuchar in the finale in 2019, but the 2020 tournament was not held because of COVID-19.
Austin Country Club suits Kisner’s style; in addition to the win, he reached the championship match in 2018 but lost to Bubba Watson.
“It plays firm and fast, and that fits my style of play,” Kisner said. “I can keep it in play and rely on my short game. Obviously, in match play, making putts is the biggest key to winning. You can really kill momentum if you hole crucial putts throughout the match. You have three or four every match, and if you make those you can really change momentum into your favor.”
Speaking of match play, Kisner is well aware that the Ryder Cup is scheduled to be played in September at Whistling Straits. He’s played on a Presidents Cup team, but never in the Ryder Cup.
“I have to play well, that’s the only way to get on it,” he said. “You don’t want to be reliant on a pick, that’s for sure. I need to play well in the majors, because that’s where the points are doubled, and I need to win this year.”