Monday Finish: Golf’s least predictable tournament
April 01, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- Kevin Kisner defeated Matt Kuchar 3 and 2 to pick up his third PGA TOUR title at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. (Warren Little/Getty Images)
Showing unprecedented resilience, Kevin Kisner becomes the first player to lose his opening match but go on to win the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play. More resilience: Affable 39-year-old Graeme McDowell wins for the first time since 2015 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where Kisner defeated Matt Kuchar 3 and 2 to pick up his third PGA TOUR title, and McDowell edged Chris Stroud and Mackenzie Hughes by one for his fourth.
1. The WGC-Dell Technolgies Match Play is golf’s least predictable tournament.
Even if you had Kisner winning it all, perhaps basing your prediction on his runner-up finish the year before, you had to admit the tournament was filled with more shockers than usual. In the knock-out phase alone, Kisner, the 48th seed, dispatched No. 36 (Haotong Li), No. 19 (Louis Oosthuizen), No. 7 (Francesco Molinari) and No. 23 (Matt Kuchar).
Not a big believer in seeds? Fine. At this point perhaps you shouldn’t be. But consider this: Only 1.1 percent of brackets had Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark getting out of the group stage, and he then made the semifinals, knocking off Tiger Woods in the process.
2. You needed a little luck, as always.
Another weird thing about the WGC-Dell Technologies Math Play: Kisner got out of his group both in spite of and because he beat Ian Poulter.
Europe’s renowned match play threat Poulter beat Kisner, 2-up, on day one, but when they both wound up with 2-1-0 records in group play, they went to a sudden-death playoff, which Kisner won with a birdie on the third extra hole to advance to the round of 16.
“I don't think I played my best all week, really,” Kisner said.
But he played well enough, and in the right moments.
Also, he admitted, he got some much-appreciated help.
“I feel like I just did what I needed to do,” he said after beating Kuchar, 3 and 2. “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.”
3. Presidents Cup implications were everywhere.
Kisner went 2-0-2 at the 2017 Presidents Cup at Liberty National, missed the Ryder Cup in France last year, and is greatly looking forward to wearing the red, white and blue for the U.S. at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne later this year.
At this point you’d be crazy to bet against him making the team. (He moved from 30th to 15th in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings.)
“That's the most fun I've probably ever had playing golf was playing team golf,” Kisner said of his Presidents Cup turn at Liberty National two years ago, when the Americans won in a rout. “I played team sports growing up and missed the camaraderie of team golf and being a part of it, especially the way we won. It was so much fun. And having it in New York is also huge.
“I'd love to get a try on foreign soil and see if we couldn't be the bad guys.”
4. Kuchar is still enjoying a career revival.
Although he admitted to making more mistakes than usual in the championship match, runner-up Kuchar still enjoyed a good run and moves back into the top spot in the FedExCup.
It was the nine-time TOUR winner’s 11th runner-up finish. Kuchar, 40, was trying to become the oldest champion in WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play history.
5. McDowell’s hard work finally paid off.
McDowell won seemingly everything in 2010, but had struggled through a long career lull.
“He’s not walked away from a golf tournament in the last 12 months like he’s got anything out of it,” said his caddie, Ken Comboy. “It’s been a frustrating time for him.”
“This is a huge relief, this win,” said McDowell, who soared from FedExCup 119th all the way to 42nd, with 419 points. It took 377 points to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs in 2018.
1. Kisner was the third straight American winner of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play (Bubba Watson 2018, Dustin Johnson 2017), the longest streak since Americans won five in a row from 2001-2005. Kisner also became the first American to win on TOUR since fellow Georgia Bulldog Keith Mitchell (whom he beat in Austin) at The Honda Classic, March 3.
2. By defeating Italy’s Francesco Molinari, 1-up, in the semifinals, Kisner became the fifth player to advance to the championship match in back-to-back years, joining Tiger Woods (2003, ’04), Geoff Ogilvy (2006, ’07), Paul Casey (2009, ’10) and Hunter Mahan (2012, ’13).
3. Matt Kuchar, who beat Hunter Mahan in the WGC-Dell Technologies championship match in 2013, was trying to become the first player to win three times this season and the first since Steve Stricker in 2009 to record three or more victories in a season after turning 40.
4. Lucas Bjerregaard, who lost the consolation match to Francesco Molinari 4 and 2, was bidding to become the first Dane to win a WGC event. Bjerregaard also was trying to become the fourth player to pick up his first TOUR win at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, after Darren Clarke (2000), Kevin Sutherland (2002) and Ian Poulter (2010).
5. McDowell’s win at Puntacana was the fourth time in as many weeks that a European has won on TOUR, after Paul Casey at the Valspar Championship, Rory McIlroy at THE PLAYERS Championship, and Molinari at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
The Wyndham Rewards Top 10 is in its first season and adds another layer of excitement to the FedExCup Regular Season. The top 10 players at the end of the FedExCup Regular Season will earn bonus payouts from the Wyndham Rewards Top 10.
There was another change at the top after the WGC-Dell Technologies Championship, with Matt Kuchar, a two-time winner this season, moving back into pole position on the strength of his runner-up finish to Kevin Kisner. The last man standing, Kisner, meanwhile, vaulted from 73rd all the way to 13th and is knocking on the door to get into the coveted Top 10.
Rank Rank last week Player What Top 10 gets (End of Regular Season) 1st 3rd Matt Kuchar
$2 million 2nd 1st Rory McIlroy
$1.5 million 3rd 2nd Xander Schauffele
$1.2 million 4th 4th Paul Casey
$1.1 million 5th 6th Gary Woodland
$1 million 6th 5th Charles Howell III
$850,000 7th 9th Marc Leishman
$700,000 8th 8th Justin Thomas
$600,000 9th 7th Dustin Johnson
$550,000 10th 10th Rickie Fowler