By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange
FORT WORTH, Texas — You’d think Kevin Kisner was a professional poker player rather than a PGA Tour golfer after his cold-as-ice, unemotional countenance Sunday upon posting a one-shot victory in the Dean & Deluca Invitational.
There wasn’t a smile to be seen when he was told that Webb Simpson, the second- and third-round leader, failed to make a bunker shot on the 18th hole that would have forced a playoff and that he was the tournament’s newest champion.
Instead, Kisner turned and hugged his wife Brittany for a quick moment before being led away to be fitted for the tartan plaid blazer the winner of this event is given each year.
Maybe it was that no-nonsense attitude that made the difference Sunday for Kisner, who outlasted his nerves and the windswept layout at Colonial Country Club by shooting a 4-under-par 66 in the final round to finish at 10-under 270 and capture the 71th edition of this storied event.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth (bogey-free 65), Sean O’Hair (66) and hard-charging Jon Rahm of Spain (66) finished second.
Simpson (71) bogeyed the 18th hole to finish alone in fifth and Danny Lee of New Zealand (70), the second-round co-leader, ended up alone in sixth at 7 under.
The win was the second of Kisner’s PGA Tour career and his 21st top-10 finish (six of them seconds) since 2014. He had six birdies and two bogeys during his round, with his short game being a key since he hit only eight of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens in regulation
Kisner birdied the 10th and 11th holes to tie Simpson for the top spot and took the lead outright with a birdie on the par-4 12th. He then calmly rolled in a birdie on the par-4 15th to push his lead to two strokes.
That lead was halved by a three-putt bogey on the 16th hole, but his up and down for par from behind the 18th green (with, appropriately enough, his putter — also called a Texas wedge) secured the victory.
“It’s never easy for sure on this tour,” Kisner said. “Guys always seem to make birdies. I’ve been in this position a ton, and one thing I always take away is you just got to keep making birdies and basically look up when you can’t make anymore.
“I knew the way I was playing I going to give myself a ton of chances to win. All you ever dream about is having a chance coming down the last five holes. I’ve had that probably three or four times this year. Today I was just having fun with it. I love the golf course and being in that position.”
The warm, humid and overcast conditions in the final round on the banks of the Trinity River were the most conductive all week to low scores. There were 33 under-par scores in the final round from the 72 players. Twenty-eight golfers finished below par, seven more than were at 1 under or below after the third round.
“This is a place you have to learn,” Kisner said about Colonial. “Knowing where to miss it is the big key around here. You get short-sighted at Colonial with the wind blowing, it’s impossible to get it up and down.
“The greatest thing I learned in the years here is knowing what pins to attack and what pins to play on the fat side. The longest putt you’ll have is 25 feet if you’re pin high and you’re on the green.”
Simpson, who began the day at 9 under, could not expand his lead on the front nine, where he had a birdie and a bogey. He drained a clutch putt for par on the 12th hole to stay just a stroke behind Kisner.
“I didn’t play that bad and I hit so many good putts that didn’t go in,” Simpson said. “It’s just one of those days that’s frustrating and it’s frustrating to end the way I did. You know, I gave myself a chance, and that’s what got to try to do every week. I’ve got to take away the good stuff from here and move on.”
Spieth, feeding on the partisan crowd and playing like he had nothing to lose, went out in 32 and was within a shot of Simpson’s lead after a birdie on the par-4 10th hole.
“We were 3 over for the tournament on Friday and outside the cut line on Friday late morning,” Spieth said. “So to go from there to a second-place finish and almost having a chance at a playoff is tremendous fight. I will just try to get off to a little better start maybe the next time.
“I went second, first, second the last three years here and I love this place. Kiz was the deserving winner this year. I’m really happy for him. It was a lot of fun this week. The crowds were fantastic.”
2009 Dean & Deluca Invitational champion Steve Stricker (a tournament-low 63), Brian Harman (65) and second-round co-leader Scott Piercy (68) finished tied for seventh four shots behind Kisner’s lead. Stewart Cink (72) and England’s Paul Casey (73) tied for 10th six shots off the lead.