AUSTIN, Texas – Kevin Kisner was anticipating some trash talk during his bout with Justin Thomas on Friday at the WGC-Dell Match Play, and he got what he wanted.
“There was actually a ton,” Kisner said. “It was actually fairly good banter.”
On his way to eliminating Thomas to advance to the Round of 16, Kisner jumped on Thomas with four birdies and an eagle in his first six holes. That stretch, which Kisner completed with just a 3-up lead, also included a clutch two-putt from 50 feet by Kisner to tie the third hole.
“I was 6 under after six and he said, ‘I’m waiting on you to wake up,’” Kisner recalled.
Thomas and Kisner have quite the playful rivalry, with Thomas an Alabama alum and Kisner a Georgia product. With Kisner holding current bragging rights after this year’s national championship title on the gridiron, Thomas tried everything to avoid another blow after going 5 down at the turn. Kisner, on the other hand, focused on staying in his opponents ear.
When Thomas holed a 4-footer for birdie at No. 10 after a lucky kick, Kisner chimed in.
“He pushed a wedge to the right edge of the green, it kicks dead left, almost goes in to 4 feet, and I said, ‘Good shot, Jordan,’” Kisner quipped. “Like that all day long, though, on every hole.”
Eventually, Kisner proved too much. Thomas clawed back to 3 down after 13 holes before hitting a wayward tee ball at No. 15 and conceding the match-deciding hole. Kisner was 7 under after eight holes, and pars at Nos. 9-14 were enough to set up the 4-and-3 win.
“He’s relentless, man,” Kisner said of Thomas. “He hits every shot right at the flag, so you know you can’t get away with average golf, and trying to keep your head in it to keep making birdies after you’ve made a bunch is tough.”
Matches and scoring from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship
Kisner now advances to the knockout stage (he’ll face Adam Scott on Saturday morning), which is nothing new. He was runner-up to Bubba Watson in 2018 before winning at Austin Country Club in 2019.
Asked what he’s learned from past experience in this format, Kisner preached the importance of conserving energy during what could be a pair of two-match days.
“Just not even worried about warming up or going to practice before the round, maybe hitting three or four balls on the range and walking to the first tee,” Kisner said. “I went out and did a full warmup before the final against Bubba, and two or three holes in I knew I was toast.”
As for his ‘Bama buddy, Kisner was happy to hand him another ‘L,’ though he admitted Thomas likely was already over the defeat.
“Oh, he’s not worried about it,” Kisner said. “He’s got plenty of money in the bank, and I’m not too concerned with his well-being.”